theodp writes: President Obama and his daughters headed to an indie bookstore last Saturday to promote shopping local. The White House did not disclose which books were bought, but author Lauren Oliver tweeted her delight after a White House photo showed her books Delirium and Pandemonium were among the 15 children's books purchased by the Obama family for Christmas gift-giving. While it made for a nice Small Business Saturday photo op, do you suppose the President paid much more for the books at the small indie bookshop than he might have at Amazon.com, where the hardcopy edition of Pandemonium is $10.15 (44% off the $17.99 list price) and the hardcopy edition of Delirium can be had for $10.47 (42% off the $17.99 list price)? Kindle Editions of the books are also available for $7.99. And with both titles eligible for free Amazon Prime shipping, the President could've saved on gasoline and Secret Service costs, too! So, will you be following the President's lead and shop local this holiday season, or is the siren song of online shopping convenience and savings too hard to resist?
theodp writes: HBS lecturer Robert C. Pozen says it's high time for management to stop emphasizing hours over results. By viewing those employees who come in over the weekend or stay late in the evening as more 'committed' and 'dedicated' to their work, as a UC Davis study showed, managers create a perverse incentive to not be efficient and get work done during normal business hours. 'It's an unfortunate reality that efficiency often goes unrewarded in the workplace,' writes Pozen. 'Focusing on results rather than hours will help you accomplish more at work and leave more time for the rest of your life.'
theodp writes: GeekWire reports that Microsoft is sticking to its decision to implement 'Do-Not-Track’ as the default for IE 10, despite drawing the ire of corporate America, the Apache Software Foundation, and the FTC Chairman. Representatives of a veritable Who's Who of Corporate America — e.g., GM, IBM, BofA, Walmart, Merck, Allstate, AT&T, Motorola — signed off on a letter blasting Microsoft for its choice. 'By presenting Do Not Track with a default on,' the alliance argues, 'Microsoft is making the wrong choice for consumers.' The group reminds Microsoft that Apache — whose Platinum Sponsors include Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo — has branded Microsoft’s actions a deliberate abuse of open standards and designed its software to ignore the 'do-not-track' setting if the browser reaching it is IE 10. It also claims that the FTC Chairman, formerly supportive of Microsoft's privacy efforts, now recognizes 'the harm to consumers that Microsoft’s decision could create.' So, is this a watershed moment for consumers? Will Microsoft cave under the pressure?
theodp writes: Drawn by amenities and talent, the WSJ reports that tech firms are saying goodbye to office parks and opting for cities. Pinterest, Zynga, Yelp, Square, Twitter, and Salesforce.com are some of the more notable tech companies who are taking up residence in San Francisco. New York City's Silicon Alley is now home to more than 500 new start-up companies like Kickstarter and Tumblr, not to mention the gigantic Google satellite in the old Port Authority Building. London, Seattle, and even downtown Las Vegas are also seeing infusions of techies. So, why are tech companies eschewing Silicon Valley and going all Fool for the City? 'Silicon Valley proper is soul-crushing suburban sprawl,' Paul Graham presciently explained in 2006. 'It has fabulous weather, which makes it significantly better than the soul-crushing sprawl of most other American cities. But a competitor that managed to avoid sprawl would have real leverage.'
theodp writes: Bill Davidow is the real Silicon Valley deal. Commenting on how Silicon Valley has changed over the decades, Davidow is not impressed, dishing out harsh words for Facebook, Apple, Google, and others. 'When corporate leaders pursue wealth in the winner-take-all Internet environment,' concludes Davidow, 'companies dance on the edge of acceptable behavior. If they don't take it to the limit, a competitor will. That competitor will become the dominant supplier — one monopoly will replace another. And when you engage in these activities you get a different set of Valley values: the values of customer exploitation.'
theodp writes: In mid-May, the Department of Homeland Security quietly expanded a program that allows foreign science, technology, engineering and math grads to work in the U.S. for 29 months without a work visa. 'Attracting the best and brightest international talent to our colleges and universities and enabling them to contribute to their professional growth is an important part of our nation's economic, scientific and technological competitiveness,' explained DHS Chief Janet Napolitano. But last week, Senator Chuck Grassley called on the GAO to 'fully investigate' the student visa program, citing reports of abuse and other concerns in his letter. Now, Computerworld reports that the DHS STEM Visa Extension Program continues to be dominated by Stratford University and the University of Bridgeport (as it was in 2010), prompting some tongues to wag. It is "obvious to any reasonable person that the schools producing most of the OPT students are not prestigious research universities," quipped policy analyst Daniel Costa, "which means that many of the OPT students across the country are not in fact the 'best and brightest.'" While conceding that top students can come from lesser-known schools, 'those will be the exception to the rule,' argued Costa, who suggested the government should include performance metrics in the OPT program, such as grades and university rankings.
theodp writes: His old day job at Gawker entailed calling BS on tech's high-and-mighty, but Ryan Tate still found things to like about Silicon Valley. In The 20% Doctrine, Tate explores how tinkering, goofing off, and breaking the rules at work can drive success in business. If you're lucky, your boss may someday find Tate's book in his or her conference schwag bag and be inspired enough by the tales of skunkworks projects at both tech (Google, Flickr, pre-Scott Thompson Yahoo) and non-tech (Bronx Academy of Letters, Huffington Post, Thomas Keller Restaurant Group) organizations to officially condone some form of 20% time at your place of work. In the meantime, how do you manage to find time to goof off to get ahead?
theodp writes: GeekWire reports that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos's annual letter to shareholders is different this year, chock-full of testimonials from authors, merchants and developers who have benefited from the company's Amazon Web Services (AWS), Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Thanks to Amazon's self-service platforms, says Bezos, "even the improbable ideas can get tried, because there’s no expert gatekeeper ready to say 'that will never work!' And guess what – many of those improbable ideas do work, and society is the beneficiary of that diversity." Fair enough, but some certainly benefit more than others.
theodp writes: Looks like President Obama better keep his day job. Back in January, the President offered to play high-tech headhunter for unemployed semiconductor engineer Darin Wedel after the ex-TI engineer's wife questioned the government's policy concerning H-1B visa workers. But more than two months later, reports the Star-Telegram, Wedel still doesn't have a job. 'We got our hopes up a little,' said Wedel's wife Jennifer. 'I mean, he's the POTUS. But it seems not even the leader of our country can get [Darin] a job.' Meanwhile, US Citizenship and Immigration Services officials told The Times of India it has received about 22,000 petitions for the much-coveted H-1B work visas in the first four days after it started accepting FY2013 applications on April 2. So much for Vice President Joe Biden's mistaken contention that 'no H-1B visa can be granted to an employee to come to a company unless they can prove there is no American to fill the job.'
theodp writes: The White House is following up on an offer made by President Barack Obama this week to help find a job for an unemployed semiconductor engineer in Texas. The offer was made during a live online town hall after the ex-TI engineer's wife questioned the government's policy concerning H-1B visa workers. Obama asked for EE Darin Wedel's resume and said he would "forward it to some of these companies that are telling me they can't find enough engineers in this field." While grateful, patent-holder Wedel said the president's view on the job prospects for engineers in his field "is definitely not what's happening in the real world." Duke adjunct professor Vivek Wadhwa offered his frank take on 40-year-old Wedel's predicament: 'The No. 1 issue in the tech world is as people get older, they generally become more expensive. So if you’re an employer who can hire a worker fresh out of college who is making $60,000 versus an older worker who is making $150,000, and the younger worker has skills that are fresher, who would you hire?' Coincidentally, Texas Instruments sought President Obama's help in reducing restrictions on the hiring of younger foreign workers in 2009, the same year it laid off Wedel.