• Tim Carmody on Kottke

    Recently Tim Carmody had a run as a guest editor on kottke.org. I get a sense Tim and I are at least similar in age, and I found myself with multiple posts just nodding my head in agreement. It is worth linking to a few of these:

    The hidden heart of Howl’s Moving Castle

    Howl’s Moving Castle isn’t the best Miyazaki film. It continues to be my favorite. It isn’t the first of his work I saw or read (Princess Mononoke in theaters 1997 and the Nausicaä manga years before that). There is just something about the movie that makes me love it a little more than the rest. Tim’s comments really echo many of my thoughts.

    Four version of “A House Is Not A Home”

    Fascinating analysis.

    Planetary and the 1990s pulp comics revival

    A few years ago I found out about Planetary and quickly consumed it all. What a great world. What a great concept. The series isn’t for everyone, a few issues have fairly gory violence, otherwise it holds around PG-13. If you’re willing, read it. If not, at least read the article to get a sense of what was done in the series.

    Warren Ellis is rebooting the world this was in (no sign of Planetary though) in the new DC series The Wild Storm. The new series is pulling from other properties Ellis did.

    The sad humanity of American Captain, the best anti-superhero comic about superheroes

    I’d never read the comic, but it is a very interesting take on Captain America in his off time in the MCU. Fun read.

    Robots in disguise

    Seriously, the Transformers move is crazy. A follow on: the rebirth of Optimus Prime two part episode is also great. I had both of those on VHS at home.

    It seems like a joke, but have you watched Monsterpiece Theatre? Many of Tim’s posts end with an interview, and this one almost did.

  • Great Thoughts on Diversity in Hiring ↗️

    A really great discussion on diversity hiring in tech. Much more to think about and actually apply from it than my post.

  • Visual Guide to Discworld ↗️

    A neat visualization about the Discworld series. I’m slowly re-reading it myself.

  • Brief Thoughts on Diverse Hiring

    It has been two weeks since the former Google employee’s diversity memo came out. I’m sure you’ve likely read it, or a lot about it (or maybe just the satire). I’m not going to make any points on that directly, but the one of the best things I’ve read is Cynthia Lee’s article on Vox.

    I saw a comment on Facebook in response to all of this. The comment was arguing against diversity hiring, claiming that diversity hires don’t have the same bar applied to them. In other words, diversity hiring programs result in hiring lower quality engineers than the ones hired outside of the programs.

    A well run1 diversity program doesn’t lower the bar for hiring. Instead it provides a way to ensure candidates all have an equal opportunity for consideration. It works to remove biases in hiring that adversely affect various groups.

    A well known example of this is with the hiring of orchestra members. I think most would expect that those auditioning are hiring strictly based on their skills, meaning that a woman who is more skilled than a man would be hired. This wasn’t the case, and as orchestras implemented blind auditions suddenly women started to be hired. Studies have been done on this, and it is clear that blind auditions removed bias from the hiring process2.

    There are a number of choke points where conscious or unconscious bias can come into play in hiring at most tech companies:

    1. Recruiter resume filtering
    2. Hiring manager resume filtering
    3. Phone screens
    4. On-site interviews
    5. Offer parameters (base pay, stock, etc)

    The best solutions I’ve seen put efforts into all stages3. The work at each stage is a bit different4, but progress can be made and measured. I don’t have a magical solution, and I don’t think the big names in tech do either5.

    Getting more diversity into tech is important. A varied set of backgrounds and life experiences help us make better products for our customers, and serve broader markets. The most important reason is that people should have the opportunity to work in the field they want, and actually be judged on their merits6.


    1. Can a company implement a diversity hiring system that does apply a different bar for hires? Sure. Have I ever seen or heard of one? Nope. And let’s be honest tech hiring is hard, imprecise, and makes mistakes. And evaluating the quality of someone’s work, once hired, is subjective. Bias extends well beyond hiring and includes how we evaluate and treat the employees that are present. 

    2. See also: the Guardian and the San Francisco Chronicle for more. 

    3. A diversity program can be implemented only at stage 1, creating a pipeline where all the resumes meet the diversity criteria. This means that stages 2–4 can’t make comparisons to candidates where a bias might come into play. This methodology has some problems. It means you are ignoring non-diverse candidates, running two hiring pipelines, or rejecting everyone just further down the pipeline. Is it better or worse than doing nothing? I’d learn towards better, but I’m not totally sure. 

    4. For example: Getting more resumes from diverse groups in at stage 1. Removing opportunities for bias to have an effect in stage 2. Making phone screens uniform for a job at stage 3. The hardest is stage 4, where it means training employees to understand bias. Stage 5 means uniformity for offers given and pay. 

    5. Looking at gender for Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. Of those that report the breakdown in engineering/tech roles, it is around 20% women. We can do better. 

    6. One other pet peeve I’ve seen this week is people citing statistics of the number of women in CS and engineering programs in the US being at all time highs (or particularly the AP CS test having a majority of women taking it). That’s great, but retention of women in these fields is terrible. More women coming in the field is great, but they need to stay. We have a lot of work to do still. 

  • Media Diet, First Half of 2016

    A quick review of the various media I’ve enjoyed the first half of the year. Not an exhaustive list, just hitting the high points and where I’ve spent the most time.

    Video Games

    Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: I checked the Switch’s play time: 140 hours. I regret nothing. Takes everything great about the Zelda series, and really harkens back to the original (no directions). Adds in modern gameplay devices. I think I have one or two uncompleted side quests, but I’ve found every shrine, and have almost completed the first DLC. Play with the Japanese audio if you can, or rewatch some of the cut scenes with it. Probably game of the year for me.

    Night in the Woods: I backed this on Kickstarter, and it came out this spring. Fits well into what I enjoy out of indie games: story and character driven. It rewards exploration and talking to everyone. Great music too.

    Final Fantasy XV: First Final Fantasy game I’ve played since 9. Excellent mechanics, good balance of difficulty, and the game keeps things moving along. I never felt like I was grinding. The large open world was fun to explore. Finished it in a little over 60 hours. Very weak with the story, a lot isn’t fully explained in game. The characters are weak, and the “spontaneous dialog” in the car quickly becomes repetitive. Music wasn’t used as well as previous entries in the series. The fact the car stereo is populated with the previous games’ soundtracks was wonderful. And now I want to go back and play Final Fantasy VI.

    Books

    Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation: I grew up in the generation being described, but I missed most of the media tied to it growing up in Alaska without cable. Absolutely fascinating to hear how the 16-bit generation happened. Very well written, kept me engaged (far to rare with non-fiction).

    Nebula and Hugo nominees: I read most of the Nebula and Hugo nominees. The Incomparable did an episode on them that I’d recommend listening to. I enjoyed All the Birds in the Sky more than them, but it did drag in the middle. However Ninefox Gambit stood out to me. Very different story, with an interesting world. The sequel was equally good, telling the story in a different fashion from the first, keeping it interesting.

    The Caledonian Gambit: Science Fiction spy thriller. That is a weak summary. Good start to Dan Moren’s fiction career. It was a good, quick read. Can’t wait for the next one.

    Movies

    Your Name.: Beautiful and fantastic. It starts out very much as one movie (and does that well), but becomes something totally unexpected. Also, great soundtrack. I pre-ordered the release of the Japanese Blu-ray (since it still doesn’t have a US release date, and I just need English subtitles).

    Wonder Woman: Very well done. Look, just listen to The Incomparable episode.

    Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2: Fun movie. Played many of the same riffs as the first, to great effect. A couple of absolutely beautiful scenes with great use of color.

    TV

    Steven Universe: Not watching much of TV, but Steven Universe continues to keep me wanting more. Cartoon Network’s weird scheduling continues to frustrate. The soundtrack came out recently, and it a lot of fun to listen too. That got me into a slow re-watch I’ve been doing, which has been very enjoyable.

    What I’m Looking Forward To

    A short list: Thor: Ragnarok, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Mary and the Witch’s Flower, Destiny 2 (The beta was a lot of fun), Mario Odyssey.

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