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Comment Re:There's truth on both sides here (Score 1) 1044

I voted. I attended. I read all the submissions before I voted. I was really shocked by how bad most of the Puppy-nominated works were. Several of them were so bad I couldn't believe they got published in the first place--never mind nominated for awards. I did vote for two of their nominees above no-award though--the two that I genuinely believed to be award worthy. One other one I debated about--it was well-written and I liked it, but it seemed to have too little content for the category.

To illustrate some of the problems: 1) several of the works were incomplete. They were part of larger stories, apparently, but simply ended abruptly. 2) A couple of them actually seemed to tell no story--they just preached. WTF?! 3) Some were just really, really dumb. E.g. imagine a planet whose magnetic field is so strong it captures people's souls when they die. 4) One big rule that beginner writers have to learn is not to give "infodumps." About half the puppy nominees never learned this rule.

If the puppy dogs really want to have an impact in 2016, they really, really need to focus on nominating genuinely good works. It's hard to give NA to a deserving work. It's really, really easy to give it to trash.

Comment Contents of the Mars Plan Nixon Rejected (Score 1) 125

As a kid, I saw this summarized in the World Book Encyclopedia, but this is a much more grown-up explanation for it. By all accounts, Nixon was flabbergasted by the cost, and that's what really killed it. The shuttle was part of the plan, and it's all that got built, which explains why it seemed to have no purpose. http://www.wired.com/2012/06/t...

Submission + - India To Build 4GW Solar Plant (thinkprogress.org)

Greg Hullender writes: "Indian utilities plan to use 23,000 acres of land to build the largest solar power plant in the world, at 4 gigawatts of power, bringing prices and production of solar energy closer to competitiveness with coal."

This would be a solar plant on the scale of a nuclear power plant. First phase (1GW) by 2016, selling the power for ~9-cents-US/KWH. No indication of any technical breakthrough; the plan appears to be simply to benefit from economy of scale. That and the fact that coal is rather expensive in India.

Comment Re:Fantastic first impressions (Score 2) 368

Not quite true. I was at Microsoft 14+ years (ending 2008), and we did indeed read (and talk about) Slashdot. However, the rules not to reply to posts about MS were very strict, and I don't know of anyone who broke them. I actually had permission to post as "MSN Dude" for Microsoft on web search-related sites for a while, but I had to do it openly. So if someone from Microsoft were posting here, I expect that he/she would say so.

Of course, things might have changed . . .


Comment New instruments, adjusted values (Score 1) 474

The key issue seems to be that a number of stations had hardware upgrades over the past 30 years or so. Many of the new instruments give lower readings than the older ones did. (Didn't dig deep enough to figure out why though.) Any research needs to adjust the data to cope with this problem. Watts just ignores it, and it cancels out half the effect of the warming measured in the US over the last 30 years. He needs to correct for this and rerun his numbers.

Note that the BEST study uses data from all over the world (including satellite data, which is immune from the effect Watts is studying) over a 250-year period. So it's hard to say that Watts' result really amounts to much even if he does correct it.


Submission + - Climate Denier Faults US Temperature Records (wattsupwiththat.com)

Greg Hullender writes: "Former weatherman Anthony Watt, who runs the major climate-change-denial website "Watt's Up With That," today posted a press release announcing he and associates have found a major problem in the NOAA temperature records over the 1979 to 2009 period. He claims that 70% of NOAA thermometers are poorly placed, causing them to report higher temperatures than they ought to, and, further, that NOAA's attempts to correct for this have actually increased the error. Watt argues that this data series has been important to so many analyses that this discovery invalidates most of the climate science done in recent years.
Previous work by Richard Muller (http://berkeleyearth.org/pdf/station-quality-may-20.pdf) showed no significant difference in mean temperatures at urban vs. rural stations, but Watt uses a new methodology for separating "good" from "bad" stations and claims a factor-of-two difference in the change over time."

Comment Works for me (Score 1) 264

I switched to using my real name a long time ago. I do find that it makes me a bit more cautious about what I say and how I say it. As others have mentioned, there does seem to be considerably less flaming on Facebook than in forums that permit (much less are dominated by) anonymous posts. I've even heard it said that Facebook's #1 innovation was producing a system that actually encouraged people to use their real names.

That's the crux of it, though; people use their real names on Facebook because it is in their own best interests. Yes, I'm sure Facebook has a policy, but I'm equally sure that the 99% compliance is not the result of Facebook's (no doubt) excellent enforcement mechanisms. To get people to comply with a real-names policy, you have to give them a proper incentive. For most sites, I'm not quite sure what that would be.


Comment It gets old--and so do we (Score 4, Informative) 515

"The problem with learning everything about a system is that once that system becomes obsolete, all that work was wasted. After doing that a few times, we all drift toward learning the minimum required for the immediate problem. When that's not enough, we're grateful to have young folks around who still want to learn every little detail."

I was 20 when a 40-something programmer told me this. I told him I hoped nothing like that ever happened to me, but he just chuckled. I'm 53 now, and something much worse happened: I became a manager! :-)

My advice: do it while you enjoy it, and take pride in it while you can. Try not to rub it in when you manage to save the day; be modest and people will shower you with praise.


Comment Re:obvious answer (Score 1) 525

This is only weakly true. The quiet overachiever always gets rewarded, unless he/she is "overachieving" on the wrong project. (Very important to work on important stuff--not just stuff you think is cool.) The toxic personality who gets a lot done but alienates everyone he/she works with--that's the one who gets screwed.


Comment Re:subject (Score 1) 525

Doesn't sound like you work for a great place. However, even if pay increases are small, the other thing that performance reviews usually drive is promotions. When your name comes up for promotion, the first question people ask is "what were his/her last few performance reviews like?" So there is still a reason to strive for good reviews--and they should be easier to get if most other people are thinking it's pointless.


Comment Re:My company used to do this (Score 1) 525

The suggestion of sending your people to represent you in meetings is an excellent one. Note, however, that there are probably only two or three people in your team (assuming 6 to 8) whom you would trust to do that. Every manager already has a ranking of his/her team, even if they don't like to talk about it.

I'm surprised you worked at a place that protected unproductive long-time employees. At Microsoft, we dumped them into the bottom bucket unceremoniously. That didn't get them fired, but it meant they didn't get raises or stock. (I suspect most of them didn't care.) But I sure can't remember anyone trying to defend one.

Likewise, if you had 8 people, you could get two in the top group without fighting and wouldn't be forced to put more than two in the bottom group. With good arguments, you might get three into the top group and limit the bottom group to just one. (I usually had one person I WANTED to put into the bottom group.) But the idea of having to fight for ALL of your good people is very strange to me.


Comment Worst System Except for all the Others (Score 4, Insightful) 525

I worked at Microsoft for 14 years (up to 2008) and was a manager for most of that period. The Vanity-Fair article doesn't really describe the system accurately, so I'll offer my own view. Given that I participated in it 25+ times, that ought to be worth something. :-)

The first thing is that, as a manager of a small team, you do NOT have to meet a curve. That's only required at high levels with hundreds or thousands of employees in the pool. You DO have to rank your people in order and argue for them at a meeting with your peers. If you have a team of 6 or 8 people, I'll be very surprised if you don't know who your best person is--and who the worst one is. As a general rule, you ought to be able to rank your whole team in order from best to worst, with perhaps a few ties. (Generally, though, I didn't end up with ties.)

So together with your peers, you now try to slot 50 or so people into three rankings: 4.0 for the best 25%, 3.5 for the bulk of the people and 3.0 for the bottom 20%. (There is special handling for superstars at 4.5 and total losers at 2.5, but that's a post-process with no quotas.) The argument always revolves around strong 3.5 people who "ought" to be 4.0 and weak 3.5 people who "don't deserve" to be 3.0. Not a surprise; every manager overrates his/her own people. The pressure to meet a quota forces people to have hard arguments about how valuable each person's work really was. It can even help a manager see the importance of putting people on the highest-value tasks. At the end of it, there are typically two or three borderline individuals, but everyone else pretty much has the rating they actually earned. The General Manager takes the result up to the stack ranking at the next level, armed with appropriate arguments for the borderline folks.

One time, I worked on a project with high-visibility and lots of pressure. At review time, we told management we wanted to give about 50% 4.0 (instead of the usual 25%) and only one or two 3.0 reviews (out of a team of ~100). They pushed that up, and it was granted. We did exceptional work, so they let us blow out the curve. But it only happened once in 14 years.

What are the alternatives? Have a Union that gives everyone the same rewards regardless of the work he/she did? Doesn't seem like a winner to me.

So to answer the OP's question, how do you succeed in such a system, the answer is: work hard, do good work, help others who get stuck, and BE SEEN DOING IT. When your manager says "Jane is my best worker," you want all his/her peers to nod and say "yeah, Jane is great! She helps us out all the time!" When your manager says "Jack deserves a better rating," you don't want his/her peers to say "that lazy bum? He couldn't find his ass with both hands!" But most important of all is for your manager to actually see you as someone who gets stuff done. Whatever anyone tries to claim, most teams only have a few such people on them. They rarely go unrewarded.


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