Total Information Awareness, championed by Admiral John Poindexter, former United States National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan, a one time felon over Iran-Contra (overturned on appeal), wanted to do much of what the NSA is doing today. When the details of TIA became public there was an outrage and the plans for it had to be scrapped. Or were they?
The point is this: the public (voters) say "no" to these things... and they just sneak around our backs and do it anyway. Saying "no" once is not sufficient. If, as a citizen, voter, and patriot you believe that these ideas are bad you need to say "no" repeatedly, early, and often. Once whole bureaucracies are constructed to serve a bad aim it is difficult, and perhaps impossible, to stop them.
As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." With all due respect to Justice Brandeis, if some of these bad ideas do survive, though, it might be more because of public exhaustion than of public acceptance. Or, more simply, perhaps once a secret bureaucracy gets big enough in the darkness there is no way to kill it once it comes into the light. Even sunlight has its limits.
I disagree with the conclusion of the article that we need yet more specialization. That said, I do agree with an issue hinted in the text: hiring managers can be lazy and cowardly. Instead of seeking candidates that are smart, versatile, and industrious, they are looking for buzzword matches between the rec and the resume. They are lazy because it is very hard work pouring through big piles of resumes looking for such versatility and intelligence, and they are cowardly because hiring a buzzword match is more defensible to their managers should the candidate wash out. The "he looked good on paper" defense is the last retort of a manager forced to admit they made a hiring mistake.
Computer science as a field of study has grow too large for any four year program to prepare a student for everything. But, that should not be the aim. The degree should not be a "union card" that says the candidate should be effective in this narrow toolset or that. The degree should be an indication that the candidate can move, perhaps with effort, from niche to niche as necessary. Work history on the resume should confirm this.
Students/candidates/programmers must be willing to do the drudgery as well as the exciting. They must continue to learn technologies that are key to their employers success--or search for a new employer. Understanding software testing methodology, requirements capture, configuration control and release engineering objectives, and everything else that would make dull party conversations should be a requirement for all engineering resources, not just those few who test, release, or specify software.
Overspecialization and compartmentalization is crippling the industry. Building intuition and skills across the board for all engineering resources is the better answer. Recognizing those skill during candidate searches by hiring managers, even if the buzzwords don't completely line up, completes the circle.
So we're OK with major newspapers having absolutely no standards at all these days?
I believe I said the opposite; I said a failure to have standards will cause problems.
What do you suppose people did back in the days before you could get ads via RSS feed?
They reviewed the advertisements with their clients directly. There were a few hundred per day and it was a manageable problem. Now, advertisements may be served by proxies and selected from among tens of thousands of potential ads, designed to be targeted to readers in specific geographic regions, income levels, purchasing habits, interests, age categories, gender, education level, or other factors.
The point of my post was that the combinatorial explosion of possible advertisement choices to be served-up on my specific page load may not be easily reviewable by NYT staff a priori.
The concern I have over the long term is that sites like the NYT may not know what advertisements will appear because they are placed by bulk-buying proxies that dispense them at page-load time, probably based on evil-cookie trails or other demographic markers. So, the question becomes: how should a presumably high-integrity site such as a major news outlet ensure quality when they've outsourced advertisement delivery?
Review of each possible advertisement would be onerous, but failure to have some standards in place will eventually lead to malware (or worse) injected into unsuspecting reader's machines. I just chuckled when it popped up. I run Macs at home. But, when things like this happen to family members running PCs (and we get the phone call) it stops being funny pretty quickly.
Is there a business case for reviewing advertisements (and the associated mobile code whether it be FLASH, etc.) for a 21st century "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval"? After all, the NYT and others are just one virus (or porn advertisement) away from a PR nightmare.
When in doubt, mumble; when in trouble, delegate; when in charge, ponder. -- James H. Boren