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Comment not for failure, for career-destroying mission (Score 5, Insightful) 137

Point of Order: It's *not* a reward for failure. It's a consolation prize for not winning the bigger reward and accepting very high probability of a publicly-destroyed career, lots of humiliation and public hate. The payment is to entice someone that already has rising pay and career prospects to knowingly take on "mission impossible" like beating Google with the full knowledge it will likely destroy their career and reputation.

The many posts I've seen here validate that the risk to reputation was indeed, a real one.

Marissa was a disaster, but frankly, so was the project she took on. I'm sure that many people besides me thought they could have done better against Google, but those are untested, ego-inflating opinions of little value.

Comment Re:Abuse of sudo (Score 2) 145

Also at an old job...I was mini-mainframe programmer/analyst rendered nearly ineffective by a sysadmin that set up automatic log-out after A FEW MINUTES of keyboard inactivity from the terminal in the name of security. I didn't appreciate having my thought-train derailed every few minutes by a message saying I'd been kicked off. My terminal was a DOS-based PC running terminal emulation software. I wrote a macro to insert two keystrokes into the keyboard buffer every few minutes. (cursor-right followed by cursor-left.)

Comment Please mod parent up (Score 1) 242

I'd agree the market quickly expanded, but Radio Shack did a poor job of maintaining it's supremacy in it. Frys and Microcenter kick butt for brick-n-mortar tech hobbiest stores. Digi-key is great for 2-3 day delivery. Even a small town like Anchorage, Alaska, supports a big-box store full of electronic components called Frigid North. http://store.frigidnorth.com/ I don't feel sad. They all represent what Radio Shack was well-positioned to be, but blew money on NFL Superbowl ads instead of revamping their tech line-up.

Comment Re:Sci-fi is not "Econo-fi?" (Score 1) 300

Interesting example and question. It provoked a lot of thought and I'm glad you took the time to post it. In dissecting your closing question I do agree we need to make money serve us and not the other way around. However, I can't seriously take the position that money is merely a technology, like, say paper or telephones. Money is also a representation of wealth and as such, is tightly tied to culture and motive, both good and bad. In your perverse incentives example, I would envision AT&T's suppression internet technology as helping AT&T only in the short-term, but short-changing AT&T's technology position in the long term. The manager(s) or organizations that decide to suppress a useful technology ultimately harm the firm's natural advantage. (I'm ignoring the complexities of a company's ability to bring a technology to market. AT&T was arguably in a natural position to lead and do well with it. ) I see the *real* perverseness as not one of capitalism, but as the focus on short-term protectionism over the creation of long-term value. AT&T had a long history of thinking in terms of government-enforced monopolies, which generally is a bad idea for both consumers and shareholders in the long-term.

It's a bit like the issue of race in hiring. A manager that decides to ignore better talent with racial characteristics he doesn't like, is ultimately self-punishing because he brings inferior talent to bear on a problem or operation. Likewise, a manager that ignores a better network technology to preserve existing central office routing technology invites better/faster/cheaper competition while squandering the natural value of AT&T's R&D and pre-existing customer base.

To stay relevant long-term, It's generally better to direct, control and profit off a new technology than suppress it to preserve your old technology. As an example, look at intel, it's constantly developing designs that compete with itself. AMD actually seems to help intel by keeping intel paranoid and focused.

I really did appreciate the question and the thought experiments it triggered.

Comment Sci-fi is not "Econo-fi?" (Score 1) 300

Sci-fi is usually literate in matters of science. I'm guessing that's why they call it "Sci-fi" instead of "Econo-fi"

I've noticed those deeply moved by science and technology are a *very* different crowd than those deeply moved by economics, accounting and finance. Too many sci-fi stories cop out on the explanation of how something was funded by saying something like "we've advanced FAR beyond the need for money" as if money is merely a technology with no ties to motive, ambition, wealth, effort or culture.

As a counter-point, some sci-fi authors include economic desperation as a major motivator. My favorite was Frederik Phol in "Gateway" as part of the HeeChee Saga. Many of the dystopian-future stories focus on an overly-powerful central government working in partnership with very large corporations.

Comment Mandatory Retirement Jobs (Score 1) 286

I've known many to retire in their early 40's from the military, but don't know if its mandatory. Air traffic control, federal law enforcement or some military specialties have mandatory upper-limits on age, coded into law. I think that, after 39 yrs old, you can no longer join the military via a recruiter, but must be "pulled in" by justified exception, such as critical expertise. Even that is hard to justify, if the same skill can be had through a civilian contractors, who face no maximum age limits.

Some private companies can also set mandatory age limits, if they are in an industry exempted from age-discrimination laws or the specific job is age-critical. For example, my friend flies Boeing 747 on international routes for a private USA airline. Even if under the mandatory retirement age, you must pass physical-fitness tests.

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