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Comment Depends on the work environment (Score 1) 194

A lot of employees at the banks I work in are mandated to "protect internal company information by all means reasonably possible, especially when not on company premises". For mobile devices that have access to corporate email, this means using polarising privacy filters on their phones, so that the viewable angle of the screen is cut down drastically.
As an aside, a lot of employees also request them for use on their desktop systems, at which point HR and Compliance/IT start taking a keen interest in what those people are doing that needs to be kept confidential from the person sitting next to them. There are a few instances where that degree of confidentiality is required, but in most of those cases, the person is sitting in the wrong part of the office, and simply needs to be moved to a more appropriate location.

Comment Re:What's this then? (Score 1) 296

The problem isn't as much voting either R or D, but that those are the only two choices. Both parties have a vested interest in making you believe that voting anything else is a wasted vote, since, by that logic, if you don't vote R, then D wins. This is only true if both R and D refuse to corporate with a hypothetical third party.

Multi-party politics can certainly work, and I would not want to limit the US to only 2 choices for the sake of it. However, multi-party setups where the number of separate parties get larger tend towards minority governments, coalitions with their own internal stresses, and generally less effective decision-making, with policy being driven by the need to keep a coalition together rather than "for the good of the people".
ok, I have probably just come fairly close to describing the current setup of the Republican party, which when viewed through the lens of long distance looks like several groups of escapees from the Insane Asylum, none of whom really like or trust each other, but who are driven by a greater dislike and distrust of "the enemy" (The Democrats). I suspect that there are equally deep divisions within the Democrat ranks, and these would be exposed during the campaigning process to choose a challenger to an incumbent President (by definition, the incumbent's lack of a need to compete against others within their party gives the appearance of unity).
Given things like the Tea Party agenda, their less-than-comfortable relationship with the GOP, and the underlying American/Republican frontier spirit which fuels a psyche of individual independence, governance and self-reliance, I suspect that a multi-party system would see 2 or 3 "Democrat" parties differentiated by non-core Democrat policies, and 3-8 "Republican" parties with variations of core Republican policies, plus perhaps independent parties organised along religious orientation lines.
That would have definite advantages - instead of an increasingly polarized argument between two behemoths, there might actually be genuine discussion of political and social matters less encumbered by rhetoric. Fundamentally though, you would probably find government being made up primarily of a Democrat coalition, with the Republican parties rendered largely ineffective by internal squabbling, leading to some of the more moderate Republican elements moving toward the center in an attempt to either differentiate and distance themselves from the playground name-calling or even trying to latch onto the Democrat machine.
In Europe certainly, multi-party politics tend to work fairly well, but generally with a relatively small number of discrete parties. I suspect that the US road to multi-partyism would explode into a larger number of small parties, which tends to be less effective, and in itself does not address concerns about competence or accountability of governments (Italy and Greece in recent history as examples).

Ultimately, I see the underlying problem being less that there are only 2 parties, but that those two parties fundamentally present as 2 ideologically opposed voices with no middle ground, but when looking at the detail behind the rhetoric, the two appear to be remarkably close together.

Comment Re:What's this then? (Score 2) 296

Why do we keep any of those (entirely incompetent) critters around?

Just borrowed the bracketed comment from your previous sentence, to add weight to the bit I was quoting...
The reason you keep those incompetent/self-serving/corrupt (delete as appropriate, or just leave alone if you think your congressman/woman is all 3) critters around is because you keep voting for the incumbent in the elections for your Congressional Representatives in both houses. Fundamentally, whether one party or the other engages in gerrymandering does not/should not matter - if enough of the voting members of the public say "enough, this person's actions in the House have shown them to be incompetent/self-serving/corrupt, I am going to vote for something, anything, else...", then the presently incumbent will become the previously incumbent Representative.
However, for that to happen... die-hard Republicans might need to vote for a pinko-liberal-commie-muslim-african-gay-transsexual Democrat. Die-hard Democrats might need to vote for a Nazi-nationalist-caveman-fundamentalist-greedy-extremist-Bible thumping Republican. Oh, and the sheeple who normally vote for the one with the best TV adverts might need to break the habit of a lifetime, and form their own opinion.
What would that achieve? Well in many cases, it might replace half way competent representatives who made one or two mistakes with inexperienced first-timers who will make more mistakes. It will probably also bring in a few who are just as, if not more, incompetent/self-serving/corrupt than the ones they are replacing. Such is life. You cannot mandate IQ tests, education on technology, economics, world politics and georgraphy specifically for politicians (it might be a good idea to try, though). But after 3 or 4 iterations (yes, I am saying this process will probably take 10+ years), your elected representatives might actually get the message that if they continue to suck up to the people selling tickets for the gravy train, rather than listening to and serving the will of the people, their political career will be short. By that time as well, there would be a saturation of former members of Congress on the after-dinner speaking circuit, we would not need another biography from a politician, and market forces would mean that they cannot earn the same as a failed one-term politician can do today, because the US government would no longer be as beholden to the big business interests that shell out the serious lobbying money and "campaign donations" that have been present in recent history.

In short, if you get rid of the ones who are not doing their jobs properly, over time the whole group will improve with the realization that failure leads to the exit door, and not to a yellow brick road lined by sacks of money.

Comment My greatest fear... (Score 1) 641

Heights, or being crushed by a collapsing bridge as I walk under it (I walk under bridges all the time, to try and work with that one. I know it is irrational, but there you go...). A while ago, I would have said Public Speaking/giving presentations (, but after working on it for a while, I have improved immensely in that area.

Most of the things that I actually might find scary do not generally happen to programmers. Odd things do come up, though - I worked my way through University working as a bouncer at various nightclubs. In that job, I was shot, shot at, knifed, involved in several other knife fights, fist fights, and numerous potentially hostile confrontations with drunk or high people looking for a fight. None of that violence was directed at me personally - I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The only time someone has actually aimed violence against me personally was while working as a programmer/on-site software implementation consultant. As the "new guy" I went on-site to install and troubleshoot a new version of our application - a back-office/inventory system - for a client, the manager of the office I was visiting picked me up and tried to punch me as soon as he heard which company I was from (the backstory - a sales guy long on promises and short on knowledge got the contract by lying about the capabilities and readiness of the product, and I was the 3rd consultant sent on-site 6 months after the agreed delivery date, still with a beta version of the product. Not appreciated by the body-building, steroid-pumping manager, who was already having a bad day).
We quickly got past that and started to make progress as soon as his nose stopped bleeding, and long before he stopped limping, and the installation became a case study and reference site for us, thanks to the efforts of the entire development team and the relationship manager. But to this date, that is the only time in all my years of working (30ish) that someones animosity has been directed at me personally. Working as a programmer can be a dangerous job!

Comment This argument needs a scientific approach! (Score 3, Insightful) 564

The problem with what Mr Horgan is advocating is that his argument is based on his view of the Humanities subjects that he teaches, and the way he teaches them.
His view of science subjects, as fields dominated by facts and accepted doctrine based on those facts is an accurate representation of the way science subjects are taught by many teachers, but it does not match the science teaching I received from the teachers and lecturers throughout my school and university life.
There, I was taught that scientific "facts" are opinions tested and supported by experimentation, and which have not yet been proven incorrect. I was taught to consider the experiences of others, but to keep my eyes open and brain engaged, observe the world around me and to form my own opinions, then conduct my own experiments to determine the validity of those opinions. I was given the freedom to decide on the nature of those experiments - did I want to form experiments with a goal of proving and supporting my opinions (the "bias for confirmation" approach, and one in which Mr Horgan is right - we do have an immense capacity for self-and collective delusion), or did I want to actually test the accuracy of those opinions by trying to disprove them?
In short, my science teachers taught me to see all sides of a question, consider as many variables as I could find, look at things as they are instead of how I would like them to be, and form opinions based on those observations. But also to continuously re-evaluate my opinions in the light of any new information that comes to light.
I cannot comment readily on the teaching of the Humanities subjects, as from the age of 14 I concentrated exclusively on the mathematics and science disciplines, plus the fact that some of my friends were starting to experience a pronounced swelling in the chest area. However, my anecdotal recollection is that a lot of my humanities lessons were dominated by "facts" based on what was written in the Bible, a history book, geological or archaeological "facts", and accepted grammar in foreign languages.

On that basis, I feel a more accurate target for his attention would be the teaching methods in schools across all disciplines, where the individual teachers discourage independent critical thinking in favour of memorizing lists of "facts" designed to (1) prepare students for an exam, and (2) give the teacher an easier lesson plan with less preparation.

Comment He steals your work, break his kneecaps... (Score 1) 480

ok, maybe not... but I must admit that in the past I have been tempted by the idea of introducing that developer's legs to a 10 kilo sledgehammer...
Contacting the old client ahead of time, asking them for a reference which specifically mentions your work on that project (and ideally which mentions you as the author, with the new guy as maintainer).
Explain to the new client that the developer claiming the code was taken on to perform maintenance of the project after you left.

Comment What are the measurable criteria for his role? (Score 2) 331

SMART goals (Specific/Measurable/Achievable/Relevant/Time-bound) are typically used when discussing bonuses, but fundamentally they can also form the basis of a review process for somebody's base level ability to do their job, if the company does not have any other metric, which in this case it sounds as though they do not.
I suspect that the manager has high subordinate satisfaction ratings for the most part, as it seems he acts as nothing more than a mouthpiece for them, meaning they get what they want, while members of other teams do not see the performance issue as that of the IT Manager, but of the team as a whole, because IT is a "black box".
Depending on the employee rights and the politics of the company, it may be as simple as delivering a fact- and statistics-based report to the boss/board of directors. A complete breakdown of costs for every project and analysis of cost-overruns is probably overkill unless you are a consultant paid by the hour (but if this is the way you go, prepare a 1-2 page summary for presentation to the board, with the full 300 page report available for anyone who wants to read a more in-depth analysis).
At that point, your job is done. You were hired to produce a report, you have done that. Let them know that you can produce similar reports for other divisions if they want you to, and maybe ask them if their situation can be anonymised and used as a case study for your Management Forensics consultancy if they have the opportunity to review it before you publish the case study. Exit stage left, hopefully not pursued by a bear.
If you are angling to take over the guy's job, bear in mind that if you have a large part to play in firing a popular boss and then you replace him, you will have an uphill battle getting people on your side. The departure of the boss, and the introduction of business-oriented goals may change the atmosphere of the office... that together with you stepping in after sharpening the knife that killed your predecessor might result in a wave of departures from the team. As the new manager, the drop in productivity will be on you, not your predecessor. so you would need to turn it round quickly. All-in-all, I would say it is easier to let some other person take the management position and then step in when they almost inevitably fail - you are one step removed from the boss the guys liked, the tanking team performance is a god excuse to bring in some goal-based metrics, and by that time, people might have forgotten that you were around writing a report on the team in the weeks leading up to the popular boss getting the chop.

Comment Not sure... (Score 5, Funny) 267

A while ago, I started trying to decide if I was a geeky nerd or a nerdy geek. It turned into an internal debate that was about as entertaining as watching paint dry, and reminded me of a story I read somewhere (might have been /., but I don't think so, and I am too lazy to search now).

A man sits in his chair watching his dog spinning in circles, then the dog sits down and spends 10 minutes licking his (the dog's) balls. The man thinks to himself "wow, my dog is easily entertained - he is happy spending 10 minutes licking his balls... he must be really stupid". Then he thinks "crap, I have kept myself entertained for the last 10 minutes watching my dog lick his balls. I must be really really stupid".

Comment European Convention on Human Rights (Score 2) 404

Up until the Human Rights Act of 1998, which incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law, there was no legal right to privacy in the United Kingdom. There was some coverage in areas of legal and medical privacy under "Breach of Confidence" and related legislation around harrassment and data protection, but fundamentally the idea of "Privacy" is a very new one in UK law.
To see a UK politician (not just that, but one of the top 5 members of the ruling Government) being so cavalier about surveillance by organisations which have no judicial oversight, and justifying it with the old saw "you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide"...

This is the same politician (William Hague) who, in a speech to the Conservative Party's annual political conference in 2001 (at this point, he was the party leader, and the Conservatives were the opposition party to the ruling Labour government of the time... the Conservatives are now the government, having formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats after the last election) said:

"I think Britain would be all right, if only we had a different Government.
A Conservative Government that speaks with the voice of the British people.
A Conservative Government never embarrassed or ashamed of the British people.
A Conservative Government that trusts the people..."

So now, the Government wants to know what the voice of the British people are saying, so they are willing to spy on them.
The Government is either embarrassed by, ashamed of, or afraid of, the British people, so they are willing to spy on them.
The Government is so mistrustful of the people, that they are willing to spy on them,

And if there is any objection from the people, the response from the Government is "you only have something to fear if you have something to hide".
Sorry Mr Hague, but as far as I know I have nothing to hide (disclaimer, I am not a UK lawyer with extensive and up-to-the-minute knowledge of all laws on the statute books in the UK). All the same, I personally object strongly to having my legally conferred right to privacy circumscribed to satisfy the voyeurism tendencies of some random idiot who feels like peeking.

Comment Why do the bugs only surface toward the end? (Score 3, Informative) 524

My first thought as I was reading the summary is "why are the bugs only being highlighted at the end of the project?".
Granted, that is when the users have something approaching a "complete" product to work with so that is where they will do most of their testing... wait, have I just answered my own question?? It seems I have, yes.
Welcome to the wonderful world of the project manager and analyst - if the client is coming with bug reports, there are 3 potential areas where someone screwed up - either the client explained it badly (in which case, it is not a bug as such, it is a functional change - paid work), or you did not do as good a job as you should have of writing the spec (in which case, in my opinion, you should eat the cost and learn from the mistake), or the developer botched the implementation of your spec (in an ideal world, the developer *should* fix that, as they caused the problem).
If the client or you screw up, just about the only way to catch that is during a user acceptance test. Determining whether the screw-up is yours or the client's comes down to a review of your spec and needs some honest appraisal by you - if the spec is unambiguous and the product does what the spec says, and the client has signed off on the spec, then it is their fault. If the spec is ambiguous and open to interpretation (typically this is going to be when the spec matches what the user wants, and what the product does, but the product and the user's expectations do not match), then you have the fault. Yes, it is incredibly hard to write clear, unambiguous specs and then get a client to read through them and understand them... but in that case the spec is a bit like a EULA - the user does not have to read and understand them, they just have to sign on the dotted line to say "the spec matches what I want".
If the dev screws up, getting them to hold their hand up and admit to the fault and fix it is hard, as you have found - why work for free when you can work for money - but if you structure the contract correctly, with a completion bonus that they get when the client takes delivery, then you have some kind of hold over them. For example, a basic wage of $60k/year pro rata with $40k/year pro rata paid after sign-off. Some/most contractors will be put off by that, and they are typically the ones who will cut and run at the first mention of "bug" and "free". But the ones who are willing to take that on will probably be more conscientious in terms of self-testing, unit testing, analysis and possibly querying the spec, because if they can get it right first time, they get the bonus without doing any extra work...
As for the other side - getting the users to test and validate earlier in the process, for that you need to deliver functional prototypes early in the process and implement some manner of testing window - most of the companies I have worked for as a PM/analyst have contract clauses that give clients a 30-60 day window from delivery of a new version of an application to report bugs as bugs - after that, any errors are categorized as billable change requests, so the client has both incentive and responsibility to perform testing of their own.

It does mean that you get to have some tough conversations with a client because they are reporting a "bug" after 5 minutes of use, 6 months after you delivered the application, and if you want to be flexible and client-focussed, you can look at whether that bug should have been caught by in-house testing to confirm compliance with your spec.

Lastly, when you find a couple of good contractors who are able to write good code and who take enough pride in teh quality of their work that they are willing to work on fixing bugs in their code (they do exist, honestly, they are about twice as common as unicorns, and are sighted more often than flying pigs), either offer them a permanent position, marry them off to your sister so that you can keep track of them, or tell them that they do such good work you will want to call them back next time you get a juicy and interesting project.

ok, maybe I am a bit too naive for this job, but I have been working as an analyst/PM/IT implementation consultant in the banking and finance industry for the last 10 years.

Comment 6 of 1, half a dozen of the other... (Score 1) 716

If the app developed by Microsoft enables Youlube users to violate the Google ToS, then I can see an argument in Google's favour, especially if the app behaviour is not something the user can control.
Having said that, it also sounds as though the Youlube apps on "other platforms" (I am assuming this is a reference to both iOS and Android) are more functional than the version for WP8. If that is a function of the way that WP8 works compared to iOS and Android, then MS are again out of luck, but if Google are purposely denying MS access to features that are available to iOS and Android, then I can see Google getting a slap as well.

Basically, I think that MS will be getting told off, and Google might also be in hot water over this, if the disagreement ends up in court in front of a judge who has some understanding of technology*cough*.

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