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Submission + - Can Full-Time Tech Workers Survive the Gig Economy? (

Nerval's Lobster writes: By some measures, more than 40 percent of U.S. workers will be independent in 2020. Today, that number stands at 34 percent, according to the Freelancer’s Union. By all accounts, the trend seems widespread enough to indicate that tech pros should prepare themselves for the dynamics of a world that depends more on contingent work. The question isn't whether the tech world will see an increasing prevalence of 'gigs,' rather than full-time positions; it's whether those in full-time positions can easily keep their jobs when there's pressure to farm it out cheaply and easily to freelancers. Or will the need for people who can see projects through the long term prevent the 'gig economy' from radically changing the tech industry?

Submission + - Work-Life Balance Among Tech Pros Is a Myth (Survey) (

Nerval's Lobster writes: Are tech professionals really willing to live on energy drinks, and sleep on office couches, in order to get the job done? For many, the answer is “no.” In response to a new Dice survey (Dice link, obviously), only 5 percent of employees at technology companies said that work-life balance wasn’t a top priority for them. Contrast that with nearly 45 percent of respondents who said they wanted more of a work-life balance, even if their current position made that difficult. More than 27 percent of those surveyed also characterized work-life balance in the tech industry as a “myth.” It seems that, despite all those companies talking publicly about wanting to give employees a better work-life balance (complete with onsite gyms and unlimited vacation time and... stuff...), it's not really working out for a lot of people. (And that's something that people have been calling out for some time.)

Submission + - Python's On the Rise... While PHP Falls ( 1

Nerval's Lobster writes: While this month’s lists of the top programming languages uniformly list Java in the top spot, that’s not the only detail of interest to developers. Which language has gained the most users over the past five years? And which are tottering on the edge of obsolescence? According to PYPL, which pulls its raw data for analysis from Google Trends, Python has grown the most over the past five years—up 5 percent since roughly 2010. Over the same period, PHP also declined by 5 percent. Since PYPL looks at how often language tutorials are searched on Google, its data is a good indicator of how many developers are (or aren’t) learning a language, presumably because they see it as valuable to their careers. Just because PYPL shows PHP losing market-share over the long term doesn’t mean that language is in danger of imminent collapse; over the past year or so, the PHP community has concentrated on making the language more pleasant to use, whether by improving features such as package management, or boosting overall performance. Plus, PHP is still used on hundreds of millions of Websites, according to data from Netcraft. Indeed, if there’s any language on these analysts’ lists that risks doom, it’s Objective-C, Apple’s longtime language for programming iOS and Mac OS X apps, and its growing obsolescence is by design.

Submission + - Boot Camps Introducing More Women to Tech (

Nerval's Lobster writes: A new study from Course Report suggests that boot camps are introducing more women to the tech-employment pipeline. Data for the study came from 769 graduates from 43 qualifying coding schools (a.k.a. boot camps). Some 66 percent of those graduates reported landing a full-time job that hinged on skills learned at the boot camp. Although the typical “bootcamper” is 31 years old, with 7.6 years of work experience, relatively few had a job as a programmer before participating in a boot camp. Perhaps the most interesting data-point from Course Report, though, is that 36 percent of “bootcampers” are women, compared to 14.1 percent coming into the tech industry via undergraduate programs. Bringing more women and underrepresented groups into the tech industry is a stated goal of many companies. Over the past few years, these companies’ diversity reports have bemoaned how engineering and leadership teams skew overwhelmingly white and male. Proposed strategies for the issue include adjusting how companies recruit new workers; boot camps could also quickly deepen the pool of potential employees with the right skills.

Submission + - Tech Pros' Struggle for Work-Life Balance Continues (

Nerval's Lobster writes: Work-life balance among technology professionals is very much in the news following a much-discussed New York Times article about workday conditions at Amazon. That piece painted a picture of a harsh workplace where employees literally cried at their desks. While more tech companies are publicly talking about the need for work-life balance, do the pressures of delivering revenues, profits, and products make much of that chatter mere lip-service? Or are companies actually doing their best to ensure their workers are treated like human beings with lives outside of work?

Submission + - The 'Trick' to Algorithmic Coding Interview Questions (

Nerval's Lobster writes: Ah, the famous “Google-style” algorithmic coding interview. If you’ve never had one of these interviews before, the idea is to see if you can write code that’s not only correct, but efficient, too. You can expect to spend lots of time diagramming data structures and talking about big O notation. Popular hits include “reverse a linked list in place,” “balance a binary search tree,” and “find the missing number in an array.” Like it or not, a “Google-style” coding interview may stand between you and your next job, so it's in your interest to figure out how to deal with it. Parker Phinney, founder of Interview Cake, uses a Dice column to break down a variety of example problems and then solving them. But it's not just about mastering the most common kinds of problems by rote memorization; it's also about recognizing the patterns that underlie those problems.

Submission + - Tech Unemployment Rising In Some Categories (

Nerval's Lobster writes: The technology industry’s unemployment rate crept up to 3.0 percent in the third quarter of 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although that represents an increase from the second quarter, when tech unemployment stood at 2.0 percent, it’s nonetheless lower than the 5.2 percent unemployment rate for the U.S. labor market as a whole. Despite that relatively low rate, however, many technology segments saw an accompanying rise in joblessness. (Dice link) Web developers, for example, saw their collective unemployment rate hit 5.10 percent, up from 3.70 percent in the same quarter last year. Computer systems analysts, programmers, network and systems administrators, software developers, and computer & information systems managers likewise experienced a slight rise in unemployment on a year-over-year basis. While layoffs for tech overall declined in the quarter, the rising joblessness in supposedly "hot" categories such as software development is certainly something to watch as time goes on.

Submission + - The Google Employee Who Opted for a Truck Over Bay Area Rents (

Nerval's Lobster writes: A little over a year ago, Google employees on a Quora thread announced they’d discovered an interesting way to live in the ultra-expensive Bay Area: Rather than pay for conventional housing, they resided in trucks and RVs parked near (or on) the company’s campus, and took advantage of corporate perks—including free food, gym facilities, and dry cleaning—to get by on a day-by-day basis. Now one Googler, Brandon S., has taken to his blog to describe how he engaged in a little off-grid living within sight of Google’s high-tech headquarters. First he spent $10,000 of his Google signing bonus on a 2006 Ford truck with 128 square feet of room in the back, which he filled with a bed, dresser, and coat rack. Google pays for his phone, and he uses the company’s gym and cafeterias to eat and shower. For those Bay Area tech pros who think Brandon’s lifestyle sounds appealing, his list of drawbacks includes “social suicide,” the inconvenience of not having a bathroom or fridge in close proximity, stress, insect infestations, and the upfront costs of purchasing a large-enough vehicle. On the other hand, he’s also using the cash savings to rapidly pay down his student loans.

Submission + - More Tech, STEM Workers Voluntarily Quitting Their Jobs (

Nerval's Lobster writes: New data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that more tech professionals are voluntarily quitting their jobs. In August, some 507,000 people in Professional and Business Services (which encompasses tech and STEM positions) quit their positions, up from 493,000 in July. It’s also a significant increase over August 2014, when 456,000 professionals quit. Voluntary quits could be taken as a sign of a good economy (Dice link), hinting that people feel confident enough about the market to jump to a new position (likely with better pay and benefits), if not strike out on their own as an independent. For tech pros, things are particularly rosy at the moment; according to the BLS, the national unemployment rate among tech pros has hovered at under 3 percent for the past year, although not all segments have equally benefitted from that trend: Programmers, for example, saw their unemployment rate dip precipitously between the first and second quarters of this year, even as joblessness among Web developers, computer support specialists, and network and systems engineers ticked upwards during the same period. If there’s one tech segment that hasn’t enjoyed economic buoyancy, it’s manufacturing, which has suffered from layoffs and steady declines in open positions over the past several quarters.

Submission + - Apple's Swift Is Killing Objective-C (

Nerval's Lobster writes: When Apple rolled out Swift last summer, it expected its new programming language to eventually replace Objective-C, which developers have used for years to build iOS and Mac OS X apps. Thanks to Apple’s huge developer ecosystem (and equally massive footprint in the world of consumer devices), Swift quickly became one of the most buzzed-about programming languages, as cited by sites such as Stack Overflow. And now, according to new data from TIOBE Software, which keeps a regularly updated index of popular programming languages, Swift might be seriously cannibalizing Objective-C. On TIOBE’s latest index, Objective-C is ranked fourteenth among programming languages, a considerable drop from its third-place spot in October 2014. Swift managed to climb from nineteenth to fifteenth during the same period. “Soon after Apple announced to switch from Objective-C to Swift, Objective-C went into free fall,” read TIOBE’s text accompanying the data. “This month Objective-C dropped out of the TIOBE index top 10.” How soon until Swift eclipses Objective-C entirely?

Submission + - Can a New Type of School Churn Out Developers Faster? (

Nerval's Lobster writes: Demand for software engineering talent has become so acute, some denizens of Silicon Valley have contributed to a venture fund that promises to turn out qualified software engineers in two years rather than the typical four-year university program. Based in San Francisco, Holberton School was founded by tech-industry veterans from Apple, Docker and LinkedIn, making use of $2 million in seed funding provided by Trinity Ventures to create a hands-on alternative to training software engineers that relies on a project-oriented and peer-learning model originally developed in Europe. But for every person who argues that developers don't need a formal degree from an established institution in order to embark on a successful career, just as many people seem to insist that a lack of a degree is an impediment not only to learning the fundamentals, but locking down enough decent jobs over time to form a career. (People in the latter category like to point out that many companies insist on a four-year degree.) Still others argue that lack of a degree is less of an issue when the economy is good, but that those without one find themselves at a disadvantage when the aforementioned economy is in a downturn. Is any one group right, or, like so many things in life, is the answer somewhere in-between?

Submission + - Choosing the Right JavaScript Framework (

Nerval's Lobster writes: As JavaScript has grown, people have created different libraries to expand its utility in Web development. Some of those libraries, such as AngularJS and Ember, are incredibly popular. Unless you’ve actually built a few applications with each one, it’s hard to get a feel for their respective strengths and weaknesses. In this article (Dice link), developer Jeff Cogswell breaks down the considerations that should go into choosing a JavaScript framework, beginning with what you're trying to accomplish. How sophisticated is your Web application’s front end? MVC or MVVM? Will you be doing a lot of JavaScript number-crunching, and thus need easy access to the data? Or will you be creating a beautiful front end that is user-oriented but doesn’t have a lot of data manipulation? The strength of your coding skills is still another factor in framework selection. But that still leaves a lot of room for debate, including whether being more locked into a specific architecture (and its admittedly useful features) is worth the tradeoff in flexibility.

Submission + - Getting More Women Coders Into Open Source (

Nerval's Lobster writes: Diversity remains an issue in tech firms across the nation, with executives and project managers publicly upset over a lack of women in engineering and programming roles. While all that's happening on the corporate side, a handful of people and groups are trying to get more women involved in the open source community, whether Women of OpenStack, Outreachy, which geared toward people from underrepresented groups in free software, and others. But does something actually need to be done about diversity among programmers? Can anything be done to shift the demographics, considering the issues that even large, coordinated companies have with altering the collective mix of their employees?

Submission + - Tech Pros Would Rather Move to a Different City Than Face a Longer Commute (

Nerval's Lobster writes: According to 2,000 tech professionals who answered a new Dice survey (Dice link, obv.), the prospect of a bad commute is so dreaded that, when asked what steps they'd take to earn a higher-paying job, 59 percent said they'd move to a different city rather than face a longer or worse commute (46 percent). The commute conundrum only intensifies in major cities. Washington, D.C.-based tech professionals said the congestion on their commute is too much (63 percent); in the New York City tristate area, 38 percent said their commute to work is too far. While nearly half of those surveyed (49 percent) said their commute to work is fine, many expressed specific issues with getting to the office every morning, such as too much traffic and congestion (40 percent) or too far a distance to travel (31 percent). All the more reason to work from home, frankly.

Submission + - The Effort to Create an 'Iron Man'-Style Exoskeleton (

Nerval's Lobster writes: Tony Stark, as played by Robert Downey, Jr., is the epitome of suave wit—but without his metal shell, he’s just another engineer who’s made good. The exoskeleton is a technology platform that, while young, is gaining traction in industrial, medical and military circles. For several years, the U.S. Special Operations Command has been working on a Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or “TALOS,” that would provide “provide [infantry with] comprehensive ballistic protection and peerless tactical capability,” in the words of Gen. Joseph Votel, SOCOM’s commander. Meanwhile, several companies—including Raytheon, Ekso Bionics and US Bionics—are working on products that could help the disabled become more mobile, or allow warehouse and other workers to handle physical tasks with greater efficiency and safety. That means people who specialize in robotics, artificial intelligence, and other areas have an increasing opportunity to get involved. According to Homayoon Kazerooni, president of Berkeley-based US Bionics and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley, control and software engineers are the leads in developing these next-generation products. Although he can’t estimate the ultimate size of the market for these intelligent exoskeletons, Kazerooni describes the industry as “fast-growing, but infant,” with “very diverse uses” for the suits. Just don't expect the aforementioned suits to allow you to fly or blow anything up anytime soon.

Machines take me by surprise with great frequency. - Alan Turing