EppsNet Archive: Technology

One Thing I Can’t Tolerate is Intolerance: The Google Memo

8 Aug 2017 /

The now-famous Google memo was first published by Gizmodo under the headline Here’s The Full 10-Page Anti-Diversity Screed Circulating Internally at Google.

If you’re interested in the topic, you should read the memo yourself, otherwise you’re going to get a terribly slanted second-hand judgment, e.g., “anti-diversity screed.” I’ve read it and I don’t think it’s “anti-diversity” and it’s definitely not what I’d call a screed.

I’ve seen that word — screed — used by multiple sources. That’s one way of dismissing and declining to engage with an opinion you don’t like: give it a label like “screed,” suggesting that the author is angry and irrational and not fit to have a discussion with.

In my reading though, I found the original memo to be academic and clinical, much less screed-like than the responses I’ve seen.

As usual (in my experience), the most intolerant people in the mix are the ones presenting themselves as champions of tolerance, diversity, acceptance and mutual respect. They love people of all genders, skin color, hair color, eye color, etc., but they have no tolerance at all for anyone who doesn’t think exactly the way they do.

If you have an opinion that doesn’t fit the preferred narrative, you are harmful and stupid, you shouldn’t be allowed to hold a job and you shouldn’t feel safe in giving voice to your opinions.

The argument against expressing an opinion like the author of the Google memo is, as I understand it, that it’s considered hostile and unwelcoming to women who might want to work in the field of technology.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said in firing the memo author: “The memo has clearly impacted our co-workers, some of whom are hurting and feel judged based on their gender.”

If it’s hurtful to judge people based on their “gender,” why isn’t it hurtful to say that the percentage of males working in technology is unacceptably high and should be reduced? (I know nobody says it that way. They say “increase the percentage of women” but it’s the same thing.)

Why isn’t it hurtful to implement policies to reduce the percentage of males working in technology? Why isn’t it hurtful to hire “diversity” personnel whose job it is to reduce the percentage of males in technology?.

Depending on which groups you’re in, you’re either not allowed to be discouraged by anything or you’re entitled to be demoralized by absolutely everything.

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Related link: Where are the additional women in technology supposed to come from?

 

Irony alert

“By ‘diverse mix of voices,’ we mean non-white females. Look at the picture. Oh, you thought it meant a diversity of opinions?! Well, in that case, you’re fired.”

 

TL;DR from Google memo

  • Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.
  • This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed.
  • The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this ideology.
  • Extreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression
  • Authoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression
  • Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.

Where Are the Additional Women in Technology Supposed to Come From?

29 Jul 2017 /

The jobs report for May contained discouraging news: continuing low labor-force participation, now below 63 percent overall. About 20 million men between the prime working ages of 20 and 65 had no paid work in 2015, and seven million men have stopped looking altogether.

In the meantime, the jobs most in demand — like nursing and nurse assistants, home health care aides, occupational therapists or physical therapists — sit open. The health care sector had the largest gap between vacancies and hires of any sector in April, for example.

We hear a lot about a shortage of women in technology jobs but we don’t hear about a shortage of men in traditionally female jobs.

It’s really two sides of the same problem. Unless a lot of women suddenly appear out of nowhere, the only way to get more women into professions where they’re currently under-represented — like technology — is to get them out of professions like health care, which they seem to prefer but in which they are significantly over-represented.

In theory, nursing should appeal to men because the pay is good and it’s seen as a profession with a defined skill set.

But the NYT cites a study from UMass Amherst, showing that not only will most unemployed men resist taking a “feminine” job, but that those men who might have been willing to consider it encountered resistance from their wives, who urged them to keep looking.

So much for diversity . . .

Speaking of which, here is a screenshot of the current board of directors of a nursing organization that I used to work with.

https://www.aacn.org/about-aacn/board?tab=Board%20of%20Directors

Nursing is a white female dominated profession, much more so than technology is a white male dominated profession, but I worked with this organization for about five years and never heard word one about a lack of diversity in nursing.

It’s hard to imagine an organization in 2017 having a 15-member all-white, all-male board of directors without drawing a lot of negative attention but all-white, all-female is okay.

I see a tremendous number of proposals for “empowering” women to get into technical professions that they may just not be interested in, but if the number of women in technology is considered problematic, then the number of women in nursing (and other over-represented professions) has to be considered equally problematic.

Where else are the additional women in technology supposed to come from?

Thus spoke The Programmer.


Why is Alexa an Improvement?

23 Mar 2017 /
Amazon Alexa

A neighbor is giving me a tour of his home improvement gadgets . . .

We walk into the living room and he says, speaking slowly and distinctly, “Alexa, turn off all the living room lights.”

After a couple of seconds, the living room lights dim and go out.

“Why is that an improvement?” I ask. “I could have turned the lights off and on 15 times by hand in the same amount of time.”

Later, I told my wife about this . . .

“Maybe you’re sitting down and you don’t want to get up to turn out the lights,” she suggested.

“You want to sit in the living room in the dark?”


Quantum Teleportation Breakthrough by DARPA-Funded Physicists

20 Sep 2016 /

Two separate teams of scientists funded by the Pentagon’s research arm have revealed significant breakthroughs in the field of quantum teleportation which could have a major impact on cybersecurity and encryption.

Forget security and encryption I want to disappear one place and appear someplace else. What’s the holdup on that?!


Is Tech Addiction Making Us Far More Stressed at Work?

27 Jun 2016 /

I like this juxtaposition of links on themuse.com. “Is Tech Addiction Making Us Far More Stressed at Work?” sandwiched in-between links to 25 Chrome extensions and 10 apps that you must have in your life right now>

Is tech addiction making us more stressed?


What Would We Do Without Consultants?

2 Feb 2016 /
The Dark Side

Digital technology? You mean, like — computers?


Sarcasm Detection Technology

20 Jan 2016 /

Quartz: Researchers have developed an extremely effective “sarcasm detector”

Sure they have . . .


When is Diversity Not a Dilemma?

26 Feb 2015 /

I just read yet another brief — Solving the Diversity Dilemma — regarding lack of diversity in the STEM workforce.

If members of Group X are underrepresented in some professions, they must be overrepresented in others. For example, I used to work with a nursing organization . . . women far outnumber men in nursing but for the five years I worked there I never heard anyone talk about the shortage of men in nursing being a dilemma, crisis, etc., or suggesting that anything be done to change it.

I work in a STEM field. It’s a good job for me but not for everyone. My son (age 21) for example, never showed any interest in it and I don’t think he’ll be any less happy in life because he’s not working in STEM. There are pluses and minuses like any other profession.

Simple but possibly valid explanation for STEM demographics: Not everyone wants to work in STEM.


60 Million Students

29 Dec 2014 /


People Who Don’t Want Me to Know Things

12 Jul 2014 /

What I want to know is why there are so many people who don’t want me to know things . . .

Trudeau's book Natural Cures Updated Edition

And that doesn’t even include all the things that people “won’t tell me.”


Raising Our Kids

10 Jul 2014 /


9 Links

1 Mar 2014 /
  1. Data Structure Visualizations
  2. Good Tech Lead, Bad Tech Lead
  3. Google Java Style
  4. Guide to 12 Disruptive Technologies
  5. How to Write a Cover Letter
  6. The Landing Page Optimization Guide You Wish You Always Had
  7. Selendroid: Selenium for Android
  8. UX Axioms by Eric Dahl
  9. Yelp’s got style (and the guide to back it up)

The Cure for Missing Attachments

10 Jan 2014 /

I wrote an email in Outlook 2013, concluded by saying “Details are in the attached doc,” then clicked Send without attaching the aforesaid document.

I must not be the only person who does this, because when I clicked Send, this dialog box appeared:

Attachment reminder

Obviously, Outlook is looking for words like “attached” or “attachment” in emails that don’t contain an actual attachment. It turns out that this behavior can be turned on or off in the Outlook Mail options:

 Mail options

I have to admit that I don’t remember if “warn me” is the default option, or if I turned it on at some point in the past and forgot about it.


It Would Be Important to Get There and There is Probably a Way

8 Jan 2014 /
Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart

Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I often say, “Well, it’s just over on the other side of that canyon. So all we have to do is go.” It is always surprising to me that other people would expect me to tell them how we’re going to get there directly. That it is not enough to say, “Well, it would be important to get there and there is probably a way. Let’s go.”


Do You Want to Take the Human Race to the Next Plateau?

28 Jul 2013 /
Geoffrey Moore One on One, DEMO Fall 2011

Geoffrey Moore (Photo credit: The DEMO Conference)

In 1986, Steve Jobs famously challenged John Sculley, asking him if he wanted to keep on making sugar water or help Apple change the world. While that did not quite work out the way either of them intended, the challenge itself still holds. Do you want to spend your next decade developing more digital distractions to amuse people while they stand in line at Starbuck’s, or do you want to take the human race to the next plateau?


Occam Has Mislaid His Razor

18 Apr 2013 /
William of Occam

William of Occam

Silicon Valley Discriminates Against Women, Even If They’re BetterPBS NewsHour

An academic says that Silicon Valley is “not a meritocracy.”

He doesn’t offer any evidence to support that. He just looked around and noticed more men than women in the high-tech workforce.

The fact that there are more members of Group A doing X than there are members of Group B doing X is not evidence that members of Group B are being discriminated against in their efforts to do X.

In particular, he says that only 3 percent of tech firms in the Valley were founded by women, as though founding a tech firm is a fun thing that everyone should want to do.

Founding a startup is an ultra-high-risk activity that requires insane amounts of time and sacrifice. Do you want to have friends? A social life? Do you have a family? Do you want to have a family? Do you want to see them sometimes?

The fact that more men than women are founding startups is not evidence that women are being discriminated against. The simplest explanation is that women just don’t want to do it as much as men do.


High Dropout Rates for STEM Majors is NOT a Problem

6 Mar 2013 /

The University of Colorado has a $4.3 million grant to research the “problem” of 40 to 60 percent attrition rate among STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors.

Someone is missing an obvious point here, which is that there should be a large dropout rate for STEM majors. Incompetent technologists and engineers create disasters.

The music department, the English department, the philosophy department, etc., etc., can graduate their incompetent students without worrying that they’re going to build a collapsing bridge, blow up a space shuttle, disintegrate a Mars orbiter — you get the idea . . .

Granville Bridge


IT Recruiter of the Day

27 Nov 2012 /

From an actual job ad:

Killer, Profitable, Stable and cutting edge technology company looking for genious!!!

It’s funny when someone misspells the word “genius”!

Why are random words like “Profitable” and “Stable” capitalized? Because the recruiter wanted to highlight the adjectives? Then why isn’t “cutting edge” capitalized?

Why isn’t “cutting edge” hyphenated?


IT Recruiters

15 Oct 2012 /
Shoe Salesman

I’ve worked with some great IT recruiters but they’re the exception, not the rule.

I spent a lot of time on LinkedIn recently as part of a job search, and it doesn’t make you feel good about IT as a serious profession when you see how many IT recruiters are former waitresses, bartenders, shoe salesmen . . . honorable professions, but not likely to give a person a good understanding of technology and the people who work with it.

Here’s a sample phone conversation I had with a recruiter:

“First question,” the recruiter says. “Do you have any experience with software development? Because that’s key for this position.”

“Uh, that’s all I’ve done for 25 years. Are you looking at my résumé?”

“Yes, but I don’t see anything about software development.”

“Are you sure it’s my résumé?”

“Yeah . . . I don’t see anything that specifically says software development.”

I’m speechless because this is clearly impossible.

“Hang on,” I say, “I’m going to bring up a copy of my résumé here. Okay, let’s make sure we’re looking at the same thing.

Developing and maintaining a portfolio of enterprise web applications on ASP.NET. That’s software development.

Designing and implementing business-critical web services in .NET environment. That’s software development.

Design and implementation of multiple concurrent ASP.NET projects on high-volume customer-facing websites. That’s software development.

“Granted, we haven’t seen the word ‘software’ followed by the word ‘development’ but that’s what all of this is, right?”

(I may as well stipulate here that IT practitioners are a pretty bad bunch themselves when it comes to lacking appropriate skills for their work.)


How to Lose Your Job : A Fictional Memoir (Part I)

4 Sep 2012 /

Because of the huge productivity differences between good programmers and bad programmers — 10x? 28x? More? — my biggest leverage point as a development manager is my ability to hire people.

At my last job, we had an HR Director named Lucy. In every one of our annual Employee Satisfaction Surveys, Lucy’s group had the lowest scores in the entire organization. Nobody liked or respected her.

She was, however, close with the CEO, which made that irrelevant.

Clowns

Lucy’s friend Kathy Slauson runs the Slauson and Slauson recruiting agency, so that’s where we got our programming candidates, who were mostly terrible.

The Slauson agency doesn’t specialize in IT candidates, although they do have a “technical recruiter,” who unfortunately knows nothing about technology.

They don’t bring candidates in for in-person interviews. They take whatever candidates give them in the form of a résumé and they pass the résumés along to clients like me in hopes of being paid a fee.

  1. Candidates send résumés to Slauson.
  2. Slauson sends them to me.

What value does this add over candidates sending résumés directly to me? None.

Slauson doesn’t qualify candidates. They don’t map abilities and skills against the requirements of a position. They add no value to the process, and I had to screen all the résumés myself, the same as if I’d just bought them from a job board.

When I saw that Slauson was just going to throw résumés at me, I asked them to please add a short write-up, indicating why they thought each candidate was a good fit for the job.

What I got was write-ups like “Candidate is good with Technology X,” where Technology X is something I indicated as a job requirement.

When I asked “How did you assess that the candidate is good with Technology X?” they would tell me “We asked him.” Or “It’s on his résumé.”

In other words, “Candidate is good with Technology X” meant “Candidate states that he’s good with Technology X. Unverified.”

 

(If you’re wondering at this point why an HR department would funnel good money to a recruiting agency for doing nothing, go back and reread the part where I mention that Kathy Slauson is a personal friend of Lucy the HR Director.)

 
Money to burn

I said earlier that Slauson has a “technical recruiter.” She was in the office one afternoon and handed me a résumé.

“He doesn’t look like an ASP.NET programmer,” I said after looking it over, “which is what we’re looking for. For example, I don’t see any C# experience.”

“It’s right here,” she said, pointing at the résumé where it said this: C++.

If you’re not a programmer, you might say, well, easy mistake to make. C# (pronounced C-sharp, like a musical note) and C++ (pronounced C-plus-plus) are both programming languages containing the letter C followed by one or more symbols.

But whereas C# is the primary programming language for web development on the Microsoft platform, C++ is a lower-level language used for system development. Nobody does web development in C++.

Not surprisingly, a high percentage of Slauson’s candidates bit the dust in the initial phone screen with me, because the phone screen was their first encounter with someone whose programming knowledge was non-zero and could possibly tell a good programmer from a bad programmer.

According to Kathy Slauson, that was totally unacceptable. She thought that because she had an in with the HR department, we should be hiring every candidate she sent over, qualified or not, and paying her for the privilege, which is the way it worked before I arrived on the scene and screwed up the process.

Money and whiskey

She was always very polite to me in person, assuring me that she was doing her best to improve the quality of candidates, but behind the scenes, she was telling Lucy the HR Director that I shouldn’t be allowed to interview candidates anymore.

(That information was never supposed to reach me but it did.)

Think about that: we had a recruiter telling our HR Director that a manager shouldn’t be allowed to interview their candidates. (The fact that I no longer work there tells you which side of the issue Lucy came down on.)

Kathy also told Lucy that the candidates I was rejecting were perfectly good candidates because after I turned them down, they were being hired at other companies.

Imagine that!

Of course they were being hired at other companies. They were being hired by companies with lower hiring standards for programmers. The best thing that could happen with some of those candidates is for them to be hired by competing organizations.

Do you think Amazon or Google worry that candidates they turn down get hired somewhere else?

(No, I wasn’t trying to match hiring standards with Amazon or Google. I’m just saying that it wasn’t my goal to be the employer of last resort, or to be able to say, “If we don’t hire ’em, nobody’s gonna hire ’em!”)

Everyone I hired was an order of magnitude improvement over the people they replaced.

I like to work with talented people. I’m not trying to get rich and I don’t have a career path. I’m trying to learn and get better and contribute to my profession.

If you give me a job where I’m responsible for hiring people, I’m going to hire the best people available, and decline to be force-fed unqualified candidates by a friend of the HR Director.

To be continued . . .


Next Page »