Quote: Doug Larson - Democracy

March 16, 2021

Democracy is a form of government in which it is permitted to wonder aloud what the country could do under first-class management.

Doug Larson

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Hiring Tests For Programmers Are Actively Harmful

February 16, 2021

The whole process of hiring programmers is fundamentally flawed and broken. I could just stop there, but unless you're in the IT industry it's hard to realize how true this is.

I am looking for another IT job after being out of programming for three years. I applied for a mid-level Java position thinking that would be a good way to ease back into the industry. And then I was sent a link for an online test to take to prove that I was a good candidate for the position and this caught me by surprise. I don't remember the last time I took a programming test. The vast majority of my positions have been by reference where the referring person or contracting company vouched for my technical abilities including Java programming skills and the client accepted it as given fact. Referrals by respected technical people seems to be a powerful way to successfully hire skilled technical folks.

The test in question was a Java 8 syntax test. I last professionally used Java 6, so I knew that Java 8 had some new features and syntax within it, but had not looked into it. I found a reference that told me the new features and showed examples of each. Most of it was inspired by functional programming languages, the rest being much needed improvements to existing Java class libraries. I started the test and found that the test was totally syntax oriented. Lots of examples of slightly different (by a character or two) lines of code and the question asking which one had the right syntax. A few questions in I stopped taking the test and mentally prepared myself for this prospective employer to hire someone else.

I don't regret stopping the test after only a few questions. I was a senior Java programmer and could write code with the best of them. It is my observation, born of more than 20 years experience both writing Java code myself and leading teams of Java programmers, that there is no link between memorizing syntax and being a good programmer. Let me go further, the syntax memorizers are generally worse programmers, so optimizing your hiring pipeline for these candidates is actively hurting your chances of assembling a good team.

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Sunrise Over Snow

January 28, 2021

Sunrise over snow

I love this shot of the early phase of this morning's sunrise viewed over snow. Everything is grey and dark except for the band of gold that is preparing to launch itself into the sky and bring us light.

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Snowfall in the Midwest

January 26, 2021

Snowfall in the Midwest

It is a time honored tradition that everyone blames the weather forecasters for being bad at their jobs. In fairness, their general forecasts are reasonably accurate. Although, I've heard it said that you'll be right at least 50% of the time if you forecast the exact thing you had today for tomorrow, so perhaps general accuracy in forecasts is not that big a deal.

For me, the biggest trigger of skepticism is the forecasting of winter storms and especially their snowfall amounts. Last night into this morning we had a winter storm and it snowed. The forecasters correctly predicted the storm, but the snowfall predictions varied from 2 inches to 12 inches. That's quite a range and shows massive uncertainty. One forecaster said 2 to 4 inches. Another said 8 inches. I even heard tell of a forecast of 12 inches. In the end we got somewhere around 7 inches, according to my very unscientific measurement with a ruler on my driveway.

It seems to me that the more urgent the forecast of impending doom, using terms like snowmaggedden and snowpocalypse, the more likely we are to get very little actual accumulation. It's as if the local TV and radio forecasters play games to see who can scare their audience into staying home the most. (As a pastor, this is quite unappreciated on Sunday mornings!)

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Iowa County Sunset

January 25, 2021

Iowa County Sunset

A late sunset shot taken when out for an early evening walk with The Queen Of All She Surveys.

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