"interviews" entries

Putting Developers to the Test

Whiteboards and manhole covers won't find you a great programmer

Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re one of the world’s greatest chefs. You are a graduate of the CIA, have run a four-star restaurant, and had your own show on the Food Network. Now you’re interviewing to run the cafeteria at the hottest new startup in Silicon Valley (they’re offering major equity). After chatting for a bit with the CEO, she leads you outside the building. “I want to see how you work,” she says. “Cook me a meal.”

“Ok,” you respond, “where’s the kitchen?”

“Oh, no. I want you to find firewood in the park over there, build a fire ring, start a fire by rubbing some sticks together, then make a spear and hunt down a deer and cook it on the fire.”

I’ve recently had the pleasure of going through the job interview gauntlet with a few companies, and that’s essentially the process that most firms use to evaluate potential employees. They sit you down in a conference room, have someone pose you some kind of programmatic brain teaser, and then expect you to work it out on a white board.

This is so far removed from the realities of what a software engineer actually does today that you might as well be asking the candidate to sketch a portrait of the interviewer. I’m relatively fluent in at least dozen languages, but I don’t try to keep everything in my head at once. If I’m coding in Java, I’m using Eclipse. If I’m working on iOS apps, I’m in Xcode. I constantly hit command-space to autofill method signatures. I hover to get Javadoc. I search the web for code fragments.

Larry Wall says that one of the virtues of a programmer is laziness; do the least work that is needed to get the job done. When you’re hiring a developer, what you want to know is how efficient he is, and how good his code will be. If he can find the solution to a problem in five minutes of searching, it’s better than having to grind for hours trying to solve it without searching. Whiteboards don’t test that.
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Four short links: 13 May 2010

Four short links: 13 May 2010

Open Facebook, Internet Stats, Handling Interviews, and Textual Relationships

  1. Don’t Simply Build a More Open Facebook, Build a Better OneMost people don’t care so much about whether technology is “open” or “closed” so long as it works. (Case in point: iPhone.) Rather than starting your plans by picking which “open” standards you’ll use, start by designing a better social networking service and then determine how “open” specs will help you build that service. (via David Recordon)
  2. Internet Stats from Google — very nice categorized factoids about internet use, technology, trends, etc. 64% of C-level executives conduct six or more searches per day to locate business information.
  3. Qualitative Methods for IS Research — summary of qualitative methods (interviews, documents, observation data) as applied to IS. Written for academics, so you have to choke back passive voice vomit (sorry, “passive voice vomit must be choked back”) but it’s got lots of useful information on approaches and tools. (via johnny723 on Twitter)
  4. Social Signaling and Language Use — turns out the stopwords like “to”, “be”, and “on” are the ones that indicate manager-subordinate relationships. In so many fields I see again and again that you keep data at each stage of transformation, because transforming for one use prevents others. (via terrycojones on Twitter)

The military goes social

Letters from the front have been replaced with Facebook updates

For most of the 20th century, a soldier in the field could only communicate with their family and friends via letters that might take weeks or months to make their way to the recipient. But as the battlefield goes high tech, so have the ways soldiers can talk to the outside world. Price Floyd, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, talked to Radar about how the public face of the military is changing.

Citizens as public sensors

The co-founder of SeeClickFix on how crowdsourcing can help local government

Gov 2.0 discussions tend to center on transparency and making data available to the general public. But information can flow in both directions. SeeClickFix believes citizens can offer as much to local government as government can offer to the people. SeeClickFix co-founder Jeff Blasius discusses the service in this Q&A.

Brian Aker on post-Oracle MySQL

A deep look at Oracle's motivations and MySQL's future

In time for next week’s MySQL Conference & Expo, Brian Aker discussed a number of topics with us, including Oracle’s motivations for buying Sun and the rise of NoSQL.

Personalization and the future of Digg

A recommendation model could quell competition for Digg's front page

I recently talked to Joe Stump, CTO of SimpleGeo, about a number of topics related to location and databases. However, in the course of the interview, we also got around to discussing Digg. Previous to launching SimpleGeo, Joe was the Chief Architect at Digg, and he has a lot of insight into where the site is heading. We'll be running the rest of the interview soon, but what Joe told me about Digg got me thinking.

When it Comes to Tweets, the Key is Location, Location, Location!

Raffi Krikorian works to make geotagging tweets fast and efficient

When you only have 140 characters to get your message across, you have to depend a lot on context. For Twitter, a big part of that context has become location. Knowing where someone is tweeting from can add a lot of value to the experience, and it’s Raffi Krikorian’s job to integrate location into Twitter. Raffi will be talking about this and other location-related topics at the upcoming Where 2.0 conference. We began by asking him how Twitter determines location, and whether it will always be an opt-in option.

What Does Publishing 2.0 Look Like? Richard Nash Knows

Traditionally, writers wrote, editors edited, publishers published, retailers sold, and reader read. But in the age of the Kindle, e-books, author web sites and comment boards, all the roles are becoming fuzzy. Richard Nash has started a company called Cursor, which is trying to pioneer the idea of social publishing, specifically to try and address some of the changes that technology is bringing to the industry. He’ll be speaking about Cursor at O’Reilly’s Tools of Change in Publishing conference later this month.

When it Comes to News, Why Won't People Eat Their Vegetables?

Chris Lee thinks that people don't get enough news they need, as opposed to want.

One of the basic questions in journalism these days is the one of what news consumers actually want. Chris Lee believes that today’s citizenry is getting too much of what they want, and too little of what they need. With the Tools of Change for Publishing conference approaching, it seemed appropriate to talk to Lee, who has spent his professional life in the trenches of broadcast journalism, about where the industry is going and what the future of news looks like.

Bringing e-Books to Africa and the Middle East

Infrastructure, economics and censorship are major issues

In the United States, Western Europe and Asia, e-Books are becoming a major player, especially now that e-Readers like the Kindle and Nook are available. But people living in the Arabic speaking world or Africa haven’t been invited to the dance. Two of the keynote speakers at the upcoming O’Reilly Tools of Change conference are working to improve access to e-Books in these areas: Arthur Attwell in South Africa and Ramy Habeeb in Egypt. We talked to each of them about how e-Books are important in their area of the world, and the challenges that they are facing.