Thursday, September 21, 2006

Feeds and Seeds for Thoth

Tim Bray posts

That is worth a read if any of my ex-company colleagues are keeping up with this blog. I suggest you follow his link to that review he cites by a US agency. It is a thorough piece of work and relevant to your product lines.

I promised a blog on targeted selection techniques. A good friend gave me some literature to review and I will post that blog when I finish the review. It's an easy system to game but interesting in what it sets out to achieve.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Getting Credit: Fight for It

Tim Bray writes that WikiPedia is trumping other more authoritative resources. I've noted this myself some time back and have been commenting on the effects of PageRank since it was introduced on XML-Dev and elsewhere. Inbound linking is a popularity contest. It doesn't confer authority. It confers perception. Perception is NOT reality. Reality requires sustainability. Let me give an example.

Kurt Cagle writes a blog on XML and eXist. He uses a comparison. Should he cite others or can one assume the idea, once out in the wild, can be claimed by anyone? Is it plagiarism? (I'm not accusing. Kurt is a friend. This is just an example.)

Those are three of a number of hits in order of idea emergence provided by Google and I suppose, PageRank. What does this mean?

Credit isn't just about 'showing up'. It is about checking sources. This is why PageRanking works and why it doesn't. In the end, you don't have to be 'given' credit; you have to fight for it. I mentioned some yerars ago on XML-Dev that a program that abstracted ideas from various sources and did a thorough comparison against all published resources would yield a different history of the sources of the ideas than are commonly accepted. Given the potentials in our ranked search systems and overreliance on the web, it's time the search vendors developed such a utility. It would answer a real need and might be a competitive discriminator if the definition of 'authoritative' rougly equals 'original'. It doesn't but that's a different discussion.

Credit is sustainability. Sustainability trumps authority.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Good Week: The Job Hunt

I’ve had a good week. After the separation anxiety passes, a euphoric feeling of freedom emerges from the constraints of the past job, and an enthusiasm for the things to come. This is exciting even when the outcome is not yet known.

I haven’t been job hunting in over twenty years. That process has changed as have most business processes due to the web. Consolidated job sites enable one to submit a resume once to a series of forms then use job jars to search among the various client companies and submit to all of them. In some, you can set up ‘bots to track new listings and send email to inform you in case you want to add these to the jar. The same technology that powers shopping enables us to shop ourselves. This evolves toward a means to continuously shop one’s services to find the highest bidder, I suppose. Pretty neat, really.

At other sites one discovers the practice of web design is still done by inexperienced programmers. The most common mistake I’ve seen is phone number entry fields that need a specific format and error out without informing the user what the correct format is. The best sites enable one to load in the digital resume one has carefully constructed using the templates provided by word processors. Otherwise, it is a cut and paste process.

The web is fast between the hours of 4AM and 6AM. Since you may have the time to nap in the afternoon, getting up early and doing the online work during these hours is a good idea. The house is quieter too and if you are using a dial up line, you aren’t holding the phone hostage during the day when prospective employers call to arrange interviews.

Interviewing techniques have evolved but I’m not too sure if these have improved. There is less emphasis on discovering the job skills and more questions aimed at discovering the fit of the potential employee. Some of this is amateur psychology but it cuts both ways because one learns a lot about the potential employer. They seem to come in groups of three playing good cop/bad cop with one silent observer. It’s worth going on interviews just to practice this game. Nervousness is normal. I do suggest that when you are called for the interview, you get the job posting number and find the web listing. It usually has enough information to start a web search that reveals enough information to prepare answers and questions. Since practically all of the interviews end with an opportunity to ask questions, you should prepare. Where I feel like I’ve not done a good job are the “Do you have questions for us?” and “Here’s a chance for you to tell us why we should hire you.” Most of us don’t think about selling ourselves, aren’t that practiced, probably have developed a distaste for people who do that as a habit, and may feel that it is too easy to scare people. Get over that but this is why it is a good idea to prepare.

Because of the consolidation of software around web services, there are a lot of jobs where the languages and experience are virtually identical. ASP.Net is the big winner here. I’ve seen one listing for ADA and one can easily predict what that job is about. There are still plenty of Java and C++ jobs but in the area where I live, Microsoft rules. If you know a bit about my hometown, there is an emerging and obvious trend there. If you are someone who got stranded in a legacy language (say Foxpro, C, and even C++) it is time to move on with the training, and if the job situation at your current employer is still legacy work, move on from there.

As the insurance ad says, life comes at you fast. Life is not about sitting around; it’s about getting around.

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