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Comment: Good only if the work is there (Score 5, Insightful) 149

by ErichTheRed (#49320857) Attached to: Obama To Announce $240M In New Pledges For STEM Education

A lot of people will see this as just a handout or lip service, but realistically, what else is there to do? Automation is going to destroy pretty much every service and office job slowly but surely over the next 40 or 50 years. People coming out of school have to do something. The "default choices" used to be that if you didn't go to college or failed at college, you got a trades or service job, and if you graduated, you got some random corporate job. These are the typical jobs we in IT see our customers doing -- some random reporting job or moving numbers around in Excel and emailing the results around, or middle management. Now, automation will be coming for the corporate jobs, and trades are becoming less and less desirable to work in due to low wages and limited to no union protection. So, what's left?

I doubt everyone can be taught enough to be a good STEM worker, but maybe enough can to sustain the rest of the economy. Even having someone who understands enough logic to troubleshoot things pays off in other fields as well. If you focus on core stuff like that, rather than getting everyone to write "Hello, World!" in Python or Ruby, you may have something. Otherwise, I agree, it'll just be a box to check during your high school career and very few people will be interested in pursuing it further.

Comment: This is one reason why IT doesn't get respect (Score 4, Insightful) 764

For the record, I'm a man who works in IT. I don't know enough about this project to take a stand one way or the other, but I do know that crap like this is why the IT profession (if you can call it that) struggles for respect. I see this sort of stuff all the time, and it's frustrating because I really thought we were beyond the stereotype of "asexual nerds living with Mom in the basement." Not everyone in IT has a juvenile sense of humor, but oh boy, those who do can sometimes make workplaces pretty uncomfortable. And no, I'm not easily offended, but it's not exactly the most professional interaction when you have to listen to someone talk about their adventures at the strip club in detail. Not the content so much, but usually it's because the people saying these things just make you think, "eww, gross." If I was a woman, I would sure select myself out of an environment like that.

For everyone who is going to respond to this in a "Fuck you, I can say and do whatever I want" fashion, can you please explain why it is so difficult to refrain from inappropriate jokes in an office environment? Does anyone in a work situation really need to hear about what you'd like to do with the hot new intern, etc.? I've worked both in "normal" office environments, and environments where behavior like this is tolerated or encouraged. Normal workplaces are a lot better in my opinion.

Same thing goes for overt sexual harassment -- I often wonder why we need to watch HR's presentation over and over again on this subject, then I see real issues in the news that I just can't believe. I wouldn't even think about saying/doing some of the stuff some guys are accused of, and it just amazes me that this goes in in 2015. I know there are a few people who develop a "rockstar" aura and can be untouchable in the eyes of management, but it would seem to me that unless you are the sole author of a company's core money making product, or an executive, you can't get away with this stuff anymore.

Comment: IT outsourcing may be the cause? (Score 1) 68

by ErichTheRed (#49286559) Attached to: Personal Healthcare Info of Over 11M Premera Customers Compromised

One thing I've noticed about these data breaches is that they happen at companies who don't really care that much about IT. Almost everywhere these days, IT departments in organizations like that have been outsourced. So the question is, does that extra layer of abstraction cause in-house staff to miss stuff?

Let's assume the outsourcer is competent and doing an OK job. Even with that assumption, you now have another level that any IT change has to go through before it is implemented. Is it possible that the patch schedule takes so long to complete that key system vulnerabilities sit around for months while ITIL and friends approve the approval process to kickoff the change control meeting, notify all stakeholders, have meetings to schedule change planning meetings, etc. etc. etc.? (You can tell I've been on both sides of this fence...) It gets so bad that staff sometimes try to avoid making necessary changes because they don't want to fill out 2 hours' worth of ITIL paperwork.

The other problem is that outsourcing inserts another layer that has to make money. I guarantee you that the best and brightest are not working for outsourcers for the most part, and they squeeze every single nickel out of every process and employee. We'll see what the security consultants dig up on this one, but I'll bet it has something to do with this.

Comment: Re:It can be interpreted other way too (Score 1) 127

by ErichTheRed (#49275627) Attached to: Analysis: People Who Use Firefox Or Chrome Make Better Employees

"Or it says that you are an arrogant shithead who doesn't want to use the tools that the company provides."

That can go either way. As-provided end user computing stuff stinks. I know, I help provide it and have to design everything to the lowest common denominator. Thankfully the place I'm at no longer has a hard dependency for all users on IE 6, but stuff like that exists. You also need to design the "for the masses" stuff in such a way that they can't mess it up too badly, to reduce help desk calls. I wouldn't blame someone who had a clue and knew how to circumvent the permissions for installing something they need as long as it wasn't a licensing liability and they didn't complain if it crashed their system or something, and they had the ability to fix their own problems if they have one. The "having a clue" part is the key. Those who don't have a clue and use the computer as a tool to do their job only are not part of this group.

Understand that no one *wants* to support IE 6 because the crappy line of business application everyone uses was written eons ago and costs millions to upgrade. IT costs money, and custom or strange software is often the reason for "irrational" choices in technology.

It crosses over into the "Arrogant shithead" realm when they loudly announce their disdain for your puny little technology choices and demand support for their stuff. Imagine a Windows or Mac guy in a Linux-only enterprise criticizing the choice of OS, distro or whatever. Same goes for the loud angry Linux guy in a Windows-only environment. Quietly using what you like and not demanding attention from IT is the difference. And yes, that often involves restrictions on access, etc. that may not affect users who use the defaults.

Comment: Not sure I like this idea (Score 1) 498

by ErichTheRed (#49224979) Attached to: Mental Health Experts Seek To Block the Paths To Suicide

One of the problems I have with people passing anti-suicide laws is the fact that some people really don't want to live. Everyone says "oh, it's a temporary condition, it can be fixed with meds, etc." but the reality is that peoples' lives are messy. If they feel that this is what they need to do to stop suffering on a regular basis, then that option should be open to them. Whether or not they're thinking clearly, it's their choice.

How would you feel about forcing someone to live through the suffering of terminal cancer or some other debilitating illness? That's what you would be doing.

The other larger macro-level problem to think about is population control. In the near future when automation has completely taken over, unemployment is high and no one can feed themselves anymore, do you really want to force a population floor? Sounds pretty cold hearted, but so is the reality of 90% unemployment and widespread poverty that awaits us shortly...

Comment: It cuts both ways (Score 2) 292

by ErichTheRed (#49216645) Attached to: Do Tech Companies Ask For Way Too Much From Job Candidates?

Having faced these huge walls of product names, operating systems and languages as a job candidate, it can be very intimidating and scare people away from applying. No one is a complete expert on everything. What I do offer is the ability to be flexible, learn what is needed and pick it up as I go. Companies don't like that because they want a drop-in replacement for whoever left, plus someone they don't have to train. This is why the consultant market is so lucrative for those who don't mind the vagabond lifestyle.

And, having sifted through resumes and conducted interviews, now that I also have a say in hiring, companies often have the reverse problem. Candidates put a "wall of experience" on their resume because (a) they know that's the only way to get past the zero-clue HR filters, and (b) they see what companies are doing, and feel that if they've seen something once it needs to go on the resume. Also, I know there's a lot of debate about the skills shortage, but in some sectors there really is one. It takes a lot of sifting through resumes to find a group to interview, and it's very frustrating to bring someone in only to find that they have grossly misrepresented their familiarity with a requirement of the job. I'm in the systems integration world, so we hire a lot of system admin types. One of the most common misrepresentations I've seen is someone with Windows administration experience, who lists scripting and automation on their resume. When you bring them in, you find out that they were just running other people's scripts, and don't have any background or knowledge to build on. Last year I interviewed someone with 10+ years of Windows Server experience, who proudly proclaimed "I don't do scripts."

I'm not sure how to solve it. Recruiters aren't the answer -- they're often the offenders in this case, editing the candidate's resume. I think the only "solution" would be to guarantee at least a phone interview to everyone who applies, just as a basic BS filter. That doesn't scale, but if candidates can't trust job descriptions and employers can't trust candidates, what's the fix?

Comment: Re:Figures (Score 1) 550

Less then 1% of the FCC's response were against Net Neutrality, but because this Congressman's PAC received $81,000 AT&T, Comcast, the NCTA and Verizon, he feels that this is what the American people want?

This is something I don't get. I know that probably much more money changes hands than what is reported, but $81K is nothing -- it's a couple of expensive dinners, golf trips, strip club visits, etc. Wouldn't something like this require TONS more money to ensure the company gets the law they need? Running even a low-key political campaign costs millions now. Even local races require at least a couple million to ensure you win. I'm sure there's way more than $81K floating out there. Take a look at what celebrities spend on a wild night.

Comment: Broadband is a utility, public good and essential (Score 5, Insightful) 550

Other than for the media companies, I can't see a downside to treating broadband access like a utility, especially since the FCC has waived the right to regulate prices. A broadband service routes packets into and out of your house, just like a water, electric or gas utility. AT&T's packets should not be any different than Verizon's packets, or Comcast's's the equivalent of the local loop from a CLEC.

It seems to me that shaking up the incumbents in some markets would be a good thing. It would probably operate the same way "competitive" gas service does now -- if someone hates their provider enough or finds a cheaper price for the exact same service, they can sign up to have another company provide it. This would be a good model to keep decent providers running, but put some limits on the Comcasts and Time Warner Cables of the world. Also, forcing some kind of universal service would mean that rural customers would get better network access. Carriers only upgrade networks when forced, and only like to operate in places where it's easy to operate...other than profits, this is probably one thing they're worried about. That, and Comcast is probably worried that Joe's Cable Shack is going to take all the business from people who don't need TV with their Internet service.

I'm also not really buying the "innovation" angle. At the core, networks are plumbing. DSL, DOCSIS, and of course Ethernet are pretty mature standards. Occasionally materials and computing advances allow for faster data rates, but these are open standards that every carrier would have access to.

Comment: Re:Brain drain (Score 1) 167

by ErichTheRed (#49172453) Attached to: Marissa Mayer On Turning Around Yahoo

Especially if people believe, as I do, bonding is built over social interaction, such as talking about the game, or people's kids, or the weather, or a game of golf, or going out and smoking cigarettes. Telecommuting is not conducive to any of that, and for better or worse, networking is best done in person.

Not everyone feels that way, and for a lot of people, especially in tech, it's unnecessary overhead. I hate having to pretend I care about someone's personal life or what happened in sports over the weekend. I do it because it's necessary to succeed in the rah-rah team building world you describe. I would never force anyone I manage to spend time in the office if they could get their work done efficiently at home and preferred things that way. If you're good, and perform excellent work, you don't need to "network" your way to success...that's for people with people skills and not much else. It's like advertising -- advertisers would never have to advertise a product if it could stand on its own merits.

That said telecommuting requires a different level of discipline than the office. I'm sure there are tons of people who abuse it. There are probably also tons of people who use it to provide the flexibility they need. Not being locked into traffic for an hour or more every day is a huge savings in many ways, including your sanity. Being able to disappear for an hour to do an errand during the day, then making it up at night, really long as you make up the hour later! But tying people to desks or meeting rooms just because networking doesn't really fly in the technology world.

Comment: Solution - Developers need to know code they call (Score 2) 158

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...

Promising costs nothing, it's the delivering that kills you.