The most popular programming languages are rapidly changing

Interesting post on Quartz:  The most popular programming languages are rapidly changing

While it is an interesting post, a number of questions came to mind on reading it:

  1. While StackOverflow is indeed a dominant system for developers seeking and sharing information, I wonder if its demographics is really representative of the entire software/technology industry.
  2. The dominance of JavaScript is hardly surprising, since if you want to do anything in the browser, you really have no choice (and choice is always a bad thing, right?).
  3. Is SQL a “programming language”? I never thought so. You cannot “build a system” in SQL – SQL may be a major part of a large number of systems, but you need a programming language to make use of it.
  4. NodeJS and AngularJS are not programming languages. They are frameworks for JavaScript. Making these two their own categories makes no sense, anymore than it would make sense to have separate categories for Python and Django and Tornado. It might make sense to have separate categories for server-side versus client-side Javascript, but not specific frameworks.
  5. Merging together the JavaScript, NodeJS and AngularJS would give a more clear indication of the use of Javascript – rather than showing a decline in JavaScript usage over the last three years.

The 3 Most Annoying Attention-grabbing Blog Post Headlines

Have you ever noticed that there are several headlines used repeatedly by bloggers and other digital writers, all of which are designed for nothing else than to try to grab traffic? Not that there is anything wrong with trying to grab traffic, but more often than not these posts are nothing but fluff, and simply play off public opinion regarding some polarizing topic.

The three which annoy me most are:

  1. Technology is Dead! – applied most commonly to the PC, and anything to do with Microsoft
  2. 10 Reasons Company  X got everything wrong!
  3. 10 Things you MUST do today or your career will DIE!

Note that it is not always 10 things – some of us can only count to 3.

Those are my favourites – what are yours?

Immigration: The new Off-Shoring?

I was just reading an article over one The Atlantic, entitled The Myth of America’s Tech-Talent Shortage

I think “myth” is too polite a term here. Complete and utter bullshit would seem to be more appropriate, both for the situation in Canada, and in the United States.

On the one hand, there is constant whining on the part or the tech industry that they cannot find enough qualified people. Their solution: allow in more immigrants who, while qualified, will often work for less money in order to get here and get established. This is, in effect, absolutely no different than off-shoring the jobs in order to get them done more cheaply. Whether they hire people off-shore, or bring people from off-shore here, it amounts to the same thing.

On the other hand, we have stories like this one on age discrimination, this one Companies won’t even look at resumes of the long-term unemployed. Then there are the many, many articles regarding the challenges of new grads finding work in their fields, including many in STEM fields.

So lets look at these points:

  • Tech companies claim they cannot find qualified staff;
  • These same companies do not hire new grads because they “lack experience”;
  • These same companies will not look at long-term unemployed (assuming 6 months is “long term”), because there must be something wrong with them, or because all of their skills have become obsolete in 6 months;
  • These same companies do want to hire over 50s because their skills much be out-of-date

Does anyone else see the bullshit in this situation? The reality is that

  1. Companies want experience, but they do not want to pay for it. 
  2. Companies can get experience for less by importing it, because many people want to come to North America.
  3. Companies are not interested in investing in building the experience base by hiring the inexperienced and growing them.

I have worked for many companies that did hire new grads, did invest in growing that talent, and did hire experienced people (even though they were more expensive) to mentor that junior staff. And you know what, those companies were successful. 

Do not get me wrong, I am not “anti-immigration”. I think that immigration adds a great deal to our country.

Just don’t try to feed me some bullshit line that it is the only way to get the technical talent you need.

Deceptive Use of Statistics in Headlines

I was looking at the Apple stock chart on CNN.com, and saw two apparently contradictory headlines listed:

 

I knew that it was likely just a case of using different comparison time frames, but it still looked amusing!

As I looked at the two articles, my suspicions were validated. The article on the left was describing a Q4-Q1 drop of 33%, not all that surprising given the iPhone 5 launch and holiday season. The second article was describing year-over-year Q1 growth of 25%, which seems pretty good.

Isn’t it nice how you carefully select which stats to use in your headline, in order to drive the perception you want?

As Twain said: Lies, damned lies, and statistics!

Leap Motion

This is too cool! And at the advertised price point, it would definitely be a game changer in NUI development. I do not agree that it replaces a mouse and keyboard, but I do not think in terms of “replacement”. It provides another mode of interaction, along with mouse, keyboard, touch and voice, all of which can augment one another to provide an optimal user experience.

I want one!

Give Your Employees Unlimited Vacation Days?

I found the article Give Your Employees Unlimited Vacation Days | Inc.com. interesting, as I have had this discussion with people in the past. While I pretty much agree with what is said in the post, I have a few things I would like to say (as I do about almost everything!), and a couple of counterpoints.

Going back a bit, vacation time has never been something I looked at closely when I was younger, as I hardly ever took vacation. Through the 90s, I think I went 5 or 6 years without ever taking more than a day or two of vacation. In fact, back in 1999 when I joined Whitehill Technologies, I never even thought to discuss vacation when we were negotiating the employment agreement. Some time after I started, I thought to ask my boss (the CTO) about it, and he said “Fred, you have as much vacation as you can find time to take!”. Note, it turns out I took no vacation in the first few years!

I believe vacation time is important, though. Even when I was not taking vacation, and running myself into the ground, I believed it was part of my responsibility as a leader to ensure members of my team took their vacation time. This all stems from my belief that is a leader’s job to ensure their team stays healthy for the long haul. If you burn your team out during the first few games of the season, you will have nothing left for the playoffs. You have to protect your team, keep them healthy, protect them from the demands of the business, and in many cases (especially with young developer-types who think they are super-human) protect them from themselves.

This is one of the problems I see with the “unlimited vacation days” model, which is often phrased as “take as much or as little vacation as you want”. Unless it is implemented very carefully, and managed by people who truly look out for their teams, there is a great risk of people not taking vacation and burning themselves out – not a good scenario for the staff or the business.

The second issue I have with the “unlimited vacation days” model is that people may feel pressured to take fewer vacation days as they feel they will be viewed poorly for taking time off. This is especially true in a business where you are judged based (wholly or partly) on billable hours realization. There is pressure (real or perceived, implicit or explicit) to not take vacation in order to exceed your target – and you are frequently rewarded and cheered for doing so. Again, this is something that must be carefully managed if you want to ensure your employees maintain life balance. While this is a problem already with “defined vacation allowances”, since many people in North America already do not take the vacation allotted to them (see, for example, here). I think there is risk of the situation becoming much worse if the amount of vacation time is undefined, especially for more junior staff.

Overall, I think it is a great idea, for the reasons stated in the article. But it is not without risk, and needs to be managed, like anything else.

Windows 8 tablets secret weapon: OneNote and inking | ZDNet

Windows 8 tablets secret weapon: OneNote and inking | ZDNet.

This has always been my view of Microsoft’s tablet strength, and the competitors’ glaring weakness. For me, without a viable input method (and the onscreen keyboard is not a viable input method for anything more than 140 characters), existing tablets are nothing more than one-way consumption devices.

I, too, used slate tablets + OneNote for all of my note-taking. Not just in meetings, but when I was brainstorming, researching new ideas, collecting and annotating content from the Web, etc.

I have OneNote notebooks with every note I took from 2003 through 2008, all searchable, and all with me all the time. The only reason I stopped was because my slate tablet died a slow death, and all of the newer Tablet PCs I have tried are complete crap for handwriting (mostly because of the introduction of and focus on touch).

However, this is just me, and the way I work. As I discussed in a previous post, this is not the case for millennials (or however you want to label the up-and-coming generation). For my kids, handwriting is awkward and slow. They would much rather type things, even on smartphone keyboards, or onscreen keyboards. Writing is an absolute last resort. Look also at the fact that a number of education departments are now removing cursive writing from the curriculum. For better or worse, in the next generation, handwriting may become almost unknown.

So for Microsoft, Windows 8, tablets, and handwriting, it will ultimately come down to (as it almost always does) answering the question who is your target market?. If Microsoft is going after the same people who buy iPads, and Android slates, then handwriting may not be much of an advantage at all.

In fact, it may just make those people think “more old fashioned stuff from Microsoft”.

Interesting opinion piece on the backlash against Smart Metering

In many parts of the US (and maybe in Canada, too) there seems to be significant backlash against the idea of utilities using smart meters in consumers’ homes.

The concerns seem based around paranoid beliefs in four areas:

Elster A3 ALPHA type A30 single-phase kWh smar...
Image via Wikipedia

 

  1. Many of the meters use UHF radio to transmit their data, and some are concerned about the health risks (as opposed to their smart phones, satellite TV, microwave oven, etc.)
  2. The meters transmit information about your usage (duh), which some see as an invasion of privacy (though they do not seem to object to their phone company monitoring usage in real-time)
  3. There are fears that the utilities will use this as a way to charge consumers more for electricity if they use it during peak times
  4. There are fears that the utility could unilaterally control some portion of your usage (heat, lights, etc.)

Here is a link to an opinion piece that talks about this (from the perspective of someone fighting the backlash). It is an interesting read – I had never even considered that there would be such a backlash against smart meters.