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  • These same companies do want to hire over 50s because their skills much be out-of-date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.

Why I Love UX (or How to Piss Off an Entire Department!)

Last Friday, I tweeted something which was badly worded, and managed to piss off much of our UX team (not to mention a few UX people far and wide):

Pissing off UX

Now I ask you, how could that post possibly offend anyone (note sarcasm)?

So, I would like to clarify what I was thinking when I posted that (and again ran into the problem that most of my thoughts do not fit into 140 characters).

First, I had been reading a number of posts and other articles by so-called UX experts, thought leaders, and others (all off whom shall go nameless, as I do not need anymore flames – well, actually I enjoy flames, but am full at the moment). Like many fanatics, they have (in my humble opinion) some fairly radical beliefs that are not well grounded in the real world. These are the “UX people” to whom I was referring in my post. Yes, my choice of words was bad.

Secondly, I have a great deal of respect for the UX process. I even have a lot of respect for most of the UX people I know (even the ones with whom I disagree). Frequently it is the UX department with whom I have an issue. I have the same issue with Marketing (the department) versus Marketing (the process), and with Architecture (the department) versus Architecture (the process).

The comparison with architecture is particularly relevant, as I have had many arguments over the years in software organizations as to whether “architect” is a role or a job title – should there be an “architecture group” separate from the development team. My belief is a resounding NO! I tend to believe that “architect” is a role which and individual with the appropriate skills and training assumes on a specific project. On another project, that same person may be a senior developer. My concern with architects in a group by them selves is that I have frequently seen these groups (a) become extremely elitist; and (b) become too far removed from the reality of implementation, leading to architectures which are elegant, beautiful, and difficult to impossible to build on-time and on-budget. Often, the 99% philosophically correct, current-best-practice architecture is not necessary, when the 80% solution can actually be implemented on-time and on-budget.

I find that UX groups is some organizations, and UX thought-leaders in the world at large, are falling victim to much the same challenges I described for architecture. Too much separation between UX and implementation creates certain challenges.  And, there is often little willingness to deviate from the “philosophically correct vision” in favour of practical reality.

And as a final thought, I definitely do not have all the answers in these areas – I just have some very definite questions about how we (in the global sense) do things.

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!

EARTH University: 
Learning for a clean future

http://www.dw.de/learning-for-a-clean-future/a-16408200

Interesting and very inspirational article/video about programs at EARTH University in Costa Rica (and in Costa Rica in general), both teaching and implementing environmentally sustainable practices.

Really makes on wonder why countries like Canada cannot do the same – it is almost like our government doesn’t give a shit.

Ma

 

Windows 8: 5 Things that Really Bug Me

I have been running Windows 8 for a while now (as many people have, given Microsoft’s approach to releasing “previews”). I started playing with it just after the //Build/ conference in 2011, and switched to running it full-time on all of my day-to-day computers back in June. I even blogged a bit about my initial experiences, but I stopped because there was not that much to write about. It is my personal experience that once you get past the initial shock of the user interface changes, doing day-to-day work on Windows 8 is not all that different than Windows 7 (note I am referring to Windows 8 here, not Windows RT).

I really like Windows 8, but I am not sure I would upgrade to it “just because”. If it is on a computer I buy, I will enjoy using it, but will likely not upgrade any more machines.

But…there are some things about Windows 8 that annoy me to no end. Like most things Microsoft does, Windows 8 is 80% great, and 20% ranging from annoying to intolerable. Here are my top 5 issues (at least for today).

It Is Not Finished

This has been said by many reviewers. Some refer to it as not finished, others as schizophrenic. Still other descriptions have been even more colourful.

My issue is specifically with the features which require you to switch to the traditional desktop to do things.

One example is computer settings. While the Settings charm allows you to get to some settings (either directly or via the Change PC settings link), the vast majority of settings require you to jump to the Desktop and open the Control Panel, just as you always have.

Sorry, Microsoft, that is just plain lazy. If there is a setting to which you want users to have access, then present it through your Modern UI.

Another example is Windows Explorer. Why do I have to go to the Desktop to move files around, look for files, etc. I can see maybe having the Desktop Windows Explorer there as a last resort, but I should be able to do anything a normal user would want to do with files through the primary UI. If Microsoft cannot figure out a good way to use the Modern UI paradigm to implement file manipulations, then it isn’t a very strong paradigm.

 The Mail App

I am torn on my opinion of the Mail app. Actually, no I am not – I hate it.

For the most part, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it (other than the lack of support for POP3 – I mean come on!). There is also nothing especially right about it either. It looks like pretty much every other mail client out there.

When I read the post Building the Mail app, it is clear that the team put a lot of thought into how to build the Mail app. Unfortunately, much of it was wrong.

Yes, it supports various “Windows 8 glitter”, like sharing contracts, search, Live Tiles, pinning accounts, etc. But is that enough?

I really would have liked to see email “reimagined” a little . The way it came out just looks like traditional email prettied up a little (very little). Could no one imagine any strategy using the Metro design language/Modern UI to actually make working with email better?

The PDF Viewer

What could go wrong with a PDF Viewer, right?

Well, how about not remember things like how I use the software? Or at least giving me the ability to tell the software what settings I want to change?

The big one for me is Continuous versus Single Page reading. I like to have PDFs in continuous mode. And, every time I open a PDF in the PDF App, I tell the app I want to use Continuous view. And every time, it forgets.

I know this is a nit-picky kind of thing – but it is endemic in Microsoft’s Apps. To not remember my preferences automatically is bad design. To not even allow me to set my preferences is unforgivably bad design.

SkyDrive App

Ok, this is another very small thing, but I run into it so often that it drives me nuts.

Open the SkyDrive App, select a file, and click the download charm. You are then presented with a UI to allow you to choose a destination folder, and a button that says “Choose this folder”. So far so good, right?

Click the button. The button then switches to say “Ok”. Congratulations! You have now added one completely useless interaction to something I will do all the time. Yes, I might have selected the wrong folder, but it is hardly irreversible. If it is the wrong folder, I can move it. Don’t annoy me on every interaction, just to handle the “exception” case.

Office Apps

I am not talking about the Office Desktop applications here, or even the Office RT applications, but about the Modern UI/Windows Store apps – OneNote MX, and Lync 2013.

Both of these are cute proof-of-concept sort of apps, but they are functionally really disappointing. I sympathize that the Office team was probably brought into the game quite late, and that they were in middle of their own major product release cycle, but better not to release anything that what you have. Neither of these are good examples of Modern UI apps, and some of the missing pieces are really stupid (why can’t I change the pen colour in OneNote MX? why can’t I pin a User or Group from Lync to the Start menu?)

There are other things that bug me, but these are the five which are top of mind today. I also kind of annoyed at some of the limitations of the App development model, but that will have to wait for another post!

 

Samsung ATIV SmartPC: Be very careful when buying in Canada

Among the Windows 8 devices I have been very anxious to see are Samsung’s ATIV SmartPC line. There are two main versions, the 500T, powered by an Atom processor, and the 700T powered by a Core I5 processor (note there is also a Windows RT version of the ATIV).

In particular, I was really looking forward to seeing the 500T. With the Atom processor, it runs a full version of Windows 8, rather than running Windows RT. The Atom processor would also seem to give better battery life, and keeps the price more in line with what people want to pay for this type of device. And the kicker (for me, anyway) is the inclusion of the S-PEN and an active digitizer to support note-taking, a big bonus in my books.

Based reviews like this, I was pretty excited.

Well, now comes the problem…I live in Canada.

As in the US, there are two different SKUs for the 500T in Canada (XE500T1C-A01CA  and XE500T1C-A02CA). The first does not include the keyboard dock, the second does.

But…

The versions being sold in the US (for slightly cheaper) both include the S-PEN/active digitizer. Not so for the versions in Canada. Samsung Canada has confirmed to me via Twitter that the Canadian versions do not have the pen, and reviews I have seen indicate that they will not even work with other Active Digitizer pens.

Others may not place quite as much important on the pen as I do, but this makes the device a non-starter for me.

I have received no justification from Samsung as to why Canadians should pay more for reduced capability. I would love to see their reasoning.

Don’t Pave Around Your IT Obstacles!

I came across a news story (note the link seems to now be broken) yesterday about a hydro pole in the middle of the road in Quebec. In case the link breaks (they often do on the Canoe.ca site) here is the picture:

Apparently, a contract was put out to widen the road, but no one thought to involve Hydro Quebec. The contractor followed his instructions to the letter, and widened the road, paving right around the hydro pole in the process. In fact, it looks from the picture like they did a fine fine to – it looks very professional. The contractor is quoted as saying:

“Everyone knows it looks crazy,” he told QMI Agency. “But the transport department is our client. You must understand, I was somewhat uncomfortable to criticize them.”

We look at this and ask ourselves “How could anyone be so stupid?”

This is a perfect example of “doing things right”, as opposed to “doing the right things”.

How many times have we watched IT projects do the exact same thing?

How many times have we seen projects which followed the exact statement of the new requirements, without always looking at or understanding the surrounding IT terrain? How many new IT projects attempt to simply “pave around” existing infrastructure? How many times have you heard someone say “well, I thought it was kind of stupid, but that is what my client/boss asked for?”

Even worse, what looks stupid in the physical world is often applauded in the IT world. If you jump through hoops to do a very professional job of “paving around the hydro poles” then you are being resourceful, and “responsive to client needs”.

Sorry, stupid is still stupid!

So the next time you see something stupid about to happen –  ask somebody. Maybe it really is as stupid as it looks! And if they still insist on doing something stupid, show them this picture!