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Comment: Re:Professional trolls (Score 3, Informative) 172

by swillden (#49802071) Attached to: Professional Internet Troll Sues Her Former Employer

are called shills.

This is wrong. As is the use of the word "troll" in the summary/article. Trolls and shills are distinct, and the difference isn't whether they get paid. You can be a paid or unpaid troll and a paid or unpaid shill.

Trolls post messages written specifically to generate responses. The term derives from fishing where trolling means to drag something through the water to catch fish. Internet trolls post baiting comments trying to get people to respond to them. Flamebaiting is a subset of trolling, where the aim is to generate angry responses.

Shills post messages to talk up some product, service, etc., trying to make it look good and its competition look bad.

Both categories also assume that the writer likely doesn't fully agree with what he or she is writing. If two people write the same words but one believes them while the other doesn't, the former is not a troll or shill, but the latter may be.

Note that paid trolls are pretty common on the Internet, but they tend to write the articles (or, on /., the summaries) not the comments. "Clickbaiting" is almost the same as trolling in this respect, except that a clickbait article is to collect clicks, while a troll article is intended to generate comments.

Comment: Re:Lots of highly paid folks (Score 1) 121

Of course there's a lot of people who are highly paid. Chances are that those people are highly skilled, or at least have highly specialized skills as well.

FWIW, at least at Google it isn't about specialization. Google SWEs are expected to be generalists, able to specialize as needed.

In fact, it's generally recommended that SWEs change teams within the company every few years, and that they intentionally look for a change that requires them to learn new skills. The belief in the company is that this approach serves both engineers and teams, providing fresh perspectives and insights to both, and spreading knowledge across teams (by moving it) and within teams (by reallocating responsibilities).

There are exceptions, of course. Some skills are rare enough that people stay within that field, even as they move between teams. On the other hand, even those exceptions have exceptions. I won't mention his name, but Google employs a famous cryptographer who recently decided that after many years of breaking the world's encryption systems he wanted to work on image compression. So he is. Another engineer I know has a PhD in computational mathematics, with a specialty in image processing. After a few years extracting building details (exterior shape, mostly) from merged aerial and street view photography, he now works on UI frameworks.

The choice of when or if to move to another team, and which, is the engineer's. The destination team also has a say, but most teams are perpetually short-staffed. Unless the team in need of some deep skill (e.g. a PhD in computational mathematics with specialization in image processing), or unless the engineer hasn't been performing well in the previous role, they're unlikely to refuse. This is why apparently-odd moves aren't uncommon; people decide they'd like to do something different, so they do.

Comment: Re:Thanks, Obama (Score 1) 387

by swillden (#49787651) Attached to: Obama Asks Congress To Renew 'Patriot Act' Snooping

The courts found the bulk collection as "justified" under section 215 as unconstitutional and wholly illegal.

Utter nonsense. Please don't spread such misinformation.

Bulk collection may indeed be unconstitutional, but the court said nothing about that. What they said was that section 215 did not authorize bulk collection, so if Congress wants to authorize bulk collection they have to pass a law to say so. If Congress does that, then the court will eventually have to rule on constitutionality.

Comment: Re:For C++, there is no standard answer (Score 1) 333

by swillden (#49786699) Attached to: How Much C++ Should You Know For an Entry-Level C++ Job?

Without any programming experience it's not likely you'd get hired. While specific language doesn't matter, you have to have sufficient knowledge and ability to be able to have a detailed discussion about solving problems in software design and implementation, and prove that you can write clean, accurate code, and do it quickly.

My recommendation is that you first spend some time working through many of the problems provided by Project Euler, or the Top Coder challenges, or similar. Or maybe one of the coding interview books, like this one.

When you're comfortable that you can take on a not-completely-trivial software problem, design an algorithm to solve it, accurately characterize the big O time and space complexity of your solution (not prove it... though you should be able to prove it, given more time), explain why there aren't any more efficient solutions, code it up on a whiteboard, and explain how you'd go about testing it, all in the course of a 45-minute interview, then you're probably ready.

Comment: For C++, there is no standard answer (Score 5, Insightful) 333

by swillden (#49784235) Attached to: How Much C++ Should You Know For an Entry-Level C++ Job?

For C++ there is no standard answer, because every C++ shop uses a different subset of the language. There are probably a few things that all of them have in common, but it's unreasonable to expect that any entry level C++ programmer can be productive without support from senior programmers while they learn the local ropes. Even experienced C++ programmers will need a little time to get up to speed on the local style guidelines.

C++ doesn't have an extensive set of standard libraries, either, which means that every shop has its own set. So senior programmers have to expect that new people are going to spend a lot of time getting up to speed on those.

Finally, I think the question is fundamentally bad, because it implies a misguided expectation of immediate productivity. That's a common expectation (hope?) throughout much of the industry, but unless you're hiring contractors for six-month jobs, its stupid. What matters in the longer run isn't what your new hires know coming in the door, it's how well they learn, and think. Because whatever they know coming in is invariably inadequate in both short and long term. One of the things I found very refreshing when I joined Google is that they don't much care what you know in terms of languages, libraries and tool sets. It's assumed that capable people will learn what they need to when they need to learn it, and that any new project involves some ramp-up time before people are productive. On the other hand, given a little time to get up to speed capable people will become very productive. Much more so than the less capable person who happened to know the right set of things when hired.

Comment: Re:get the phone apps syncing with desktop Firefox (Score 1) 90

Even the small payload becomes a big logistical challenge when you're looking at doing it globally, for large numbers of devices and want to make it fast (means having data centers in all regions), and make it reliable (means having redundancy, at multiple levels). Oh, and the "all the data is encrypted" bit may expose regulatory problems, too.

I really want an alternative to Android, but it's an even bigger challenge than I thought.

What specifically are you looking for? As an alternative, are there some ways that Android could be improved to alleviate whatever concerns you have? If your concerns are non-technical and primarily about insufficient ecosystem diversity (i.e. insufficient fragmentation), then there's probably not much to do. If your concerns are related to technical problems with Android, or privacy concerns about its relationship with Google, there may well be.

I'm an engineer on Google's Android Security team, and I'm actively looking for things that we can do to address security and privacy concerns. One of the ideas I've been kicking around is a "pre-encryption network tap"... basically, what if you could turn on a mode that logs a copy of everything your device transmits and receives? Most of that data is (and should be!) encrypted, but since most apps and all system services use the framework implementations (yes, plural... sigh) of SSL/TLS it should be possible to hook in and grab the plaintext. My goal here is to enable users to examine what their device is sending, and to whom, because I think right now it's too hard to tell, and because specifically I think there are a lot of erroneous assumptions that Google is receiving a lot of data from Android devices without user permission.

The downside, of course, is that adding such a hook into the system makes it a prime target for various sorts of attacks. So I don't think we would want to do that, not as stated, anyway. Though there may be some variant of the idea that isn't too risky.

Anyway, given a system like that, it should be possible to build an alternative ecosystem of apps and services that run on Android and don't use Google's infrastructure, and that would be much easier than building an entirely new platform. You'd still need to address the problems I mentioned at the top, but at least those could be the bulk of the challenge rather than just another piece of it.

As another alternative, I think if Google became more transparent about how it manages user data and what it does with it, many peoples' concerns would be addressed. But although I make that argument regularly, I don't have the same degree of influence there as I do over platform technology.

Or if you have other concerns, what are they, and do you have any ideas about how the platform could address them?

Comment: Re:get the phone apps syncing with desktop Firefox (Score 1) 90

That's my 2 cents, it merely takes $20M to implement.

Plus a lot more to operate the data centers needed to store and sync all that data around. For Mozilla to build that they'd have to find some way to pay for it. Given that people are generally not willing to pay monthly fees for that sort of service, advertising is the obvious option. But to make the advertising effective, it needs to be targeted, so...

Comment: Re: Why do this in the first place? (Score 1) 90

I have a better idea: Just use Android, only write a drop in replacement for Play Services. Pull an Amazon, only invite other OEMs to the party so that they sell your devices, and no walled garden.

How would this be attractive to OEMs? Google already offers an extremely well-developed open ecosystem. Amazon wanted to have their own walled garden, but you're assuming there are OEMs that don't want to do that, but want to have a different ecosystem, and want it enough to be willing to accept smaller sales numbers. What would make them want to do that?

Comment: Re:Different perspectives... (Score 1) 253

by swillden (#49774123) Attached to: Leaked Document Shows Europe Would Fight UK Plans To Block Porn

I think unrealistic portrayals of sex create bigger problems than those other examples you cite -- though they are problems. The reason I think that is that the other unrealistic portrayals don't affect core human relationships to the same degree. I hope I'm wrong, actually. We'll know in a generation or so.

Comment: Re:Ask Abu Hamsa about allowed speech and the USA. (Score 1) 253

by swillden (#49774091) Attached to: Leaked Document Shows Europe Would Fight UK Plans To Block Porn

One more point: I find your choice of example to be odd, because the US charges against Hamsa have nothing to do with speech; they're about kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder. The UK's charges against Hamsa are largely speech-related.

Manning or Snowden would have been better examples.

Comment: Re:Ask Abu Hamsa about allowed speech and the USA. (Score 1) 253

by swillden (#49774065) Attached to: Leaked Document Shows Europe Would Fight UK Plans To Block Porn
Oh, I'm not claiming there are no problems. Clearly the US does have some big issues at present with some particular forms of restriction of free speech. I'm fairly confident that will get sorted out over the course of the next couple of decades, though. The pendulum is swinging that direction. Not that perfection will ever be achieved, but there really is a strong bias towards protecting freedom of expression.

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