Friday, February 25, 2011

AOL: employers condescend to every visual stereotype in making hiring decisions

AOL Jobs has a provocative column “Are you built to make big bucks?”, which greeted AOL subscribers yesterday.

The article maintains that employers, in practice, are falling for all the visual stereotypes for what makes a “desirable” hire.

Tall men are preferred to short men. (Although they forget that Mark Zuckerberg is about 5 feet 8 inches. ) 

Genetic male-pattern baldness is out (get a toupee, or if your hairline recedes, use Rogaine).  But if you’re over 40, according to Malloy’s “Dress for Success” book, a little gray is a good thing (don’t look too much like Tom Cruise).  Being married is in (and the comment in the AOL article strains to be offensive). For women, makeup is essential. 

I didn't see anything about men wearing socks with garters. 

Getting hired is becoming a test of social conformity (not to mention how your Facebook page must look), for employers who can ditch you at will anyway. What happened to determining your own course in life?

Here’s the link.  I hope it’s tongue in cheek.

While we’re at it, look at the notorious “1872 Rules for Teachers” here

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Maryland corrections department requires Facebook logins from applicants for BI purposes

The ACLU is reporting a case where a job applicant was required to give an employer a Facebook login as part of a background investigation. The employer was the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections which wants to look at “private areas” of social media for evidence of criminal activity as part of a background investigation for a returning employee.

The story appeared on NBC Washington here.  

It’s becoming more common for employers to do BI’s on social media, but run into problems with inaccurate information posted by others or with identifying wrong people.  Social media were not developed with the intention of making intrusive investigations easier.

Here’s a copy of the letter from the ACLU to the state department of corrections. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A note about telephone jobs

There is something about telephone jobs that is a bit of a personal test. People don’t like to be called and kept on the phone, and employers expect associates to become skilled in “overcoming objections”, which may not be OK if the objections are morally legitimate. Then it raises questions as to why the employee is not “good” enough to get a better job.  It’s hard not to say that to unwanted callers, but legal solicitations, exempted under the FCC “do not call” rules.

In some cases, people who call for a living could face some share of personal legal risk, particularly if they use their own cellular or broadband connections for work, and are caught between TOS rules of a provider and employer demands.

But remember some years ago we were more “socialized” than we are now. We accepted more interdependence, and expected to get calls from sales persons. That’s changing, of course, as serial intimacy (or at-distance intimacy over the web) takes the place up real contact with people.

Over the past years, I got a number of unwanted invitations for these “people oriented” jobs. I’m not one who likes to prove I can take care of others or sell them someone else’s agenda.  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Employers getting pickier about off-duty smokers, other medical lifestyle issues

Jessica Wertling has an “All Media NY” story today about the fact that more employers are refusing to hire people who smoke at all, partly because of concerns over health care costs. The link is here

There is concern over a slippery slope. If employers can refuse to hire people over using a legal substance at home, they could reject people for other reasons like obesity, high cholesterol or high blood sugar, unsafe sex, and the like. They could use Facebook or other sources to look for evidence.  Many of them probably do. 
Yet, of course, libertarians have always supported the “employment at will” concept.

A version of the story appeared on AOL this morning, but disappeared.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Employer indirect control of "off-duty" time when on call can become an issue

Use of “times and materials” resources ought to be a two-way deal in the employment world.

Many salaried and hourly (both) jobs require people to be available quickly on-call. Typically, the law doesn’t require compensation for time not worked and is pretty stingy on how it interprets the ability of the employee to use his own time for his own purposes (to leave the home or access to the computer, for example, to go to a show or an event).

Here’s a basic link on workplace fairness.  

Here’s OSHA’s basic link on the issue. 

On the issue of employees “exempt” from overtime pay requirements, the DOL has a definitive link ("Elaw").  Notice that “hourly” W-2 IT contractors would be exempt from the time-and-a-half requirement if they make a minimum rate (about $28 an hour) and have certain kinds of duties.   While managers and administrators are normally exempt, so could certain other kinds of people (such as commissioned).

Businessweek has a link on the issues that occur when employees are tethered to their jobs, link here.  It seems that employers may be under very little obligation to compensate exempt employees (especially “supervisors”) for the time their lives are compromised.  Hourly may be another matter, but it may depend on how quickly an employee must be available.

One problem is that performance effectiveness (as measured by the employer quantitatively with quotas or statistics) may depend on the ability of an employee to take a cell phone call from a client, or climb right on to a computer which, even if left on, must be available to the person (it probably wouldn’t be if the person is at a movie or in a disco, for example).

It’s a long trek for employees, who are told they’d better use social media to project an image that will impress employers than say what they think should be said. Employers, after all, can use employment at will and cut people at will.   The Libra scales are not in balance.

Monday, February 07, 2011

WSJ reports increase in state licensure requirements for trades

On Feb. 7, 2011, the Wall Street Journal, in an article by Stephanie Simon, explored the tendency for many states to increase licensure requirements in a wide range of trade occupations. The article is titled “A license to shampoo: Jobs needing state approval rise”, link (website url) here (may require online subscription for all content). One of the interesting examples is "music therapist". 

It’s interesting that in Virginia, a teacher’s license for those otherwise degreed requires 180 clock hours. But in California barbering requires a year of study and a $12000 curriculum.

Libertarians have opposed licensure, saying that it raises costs to consumers (it does) and tends to express a value of protectionism, by keeping low cost competition and innovation out.

It is somewhat a matter of history that the same thing has not happened in Internet jobs or information technology in general.  Industry certifications are desirable in many areas but it seems not required so much.

There is an industry “Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation” (link) which characterizes itself as the “premier international resource for professional regulation stakeholders”.  At least 1100 occupations require licensure in some states now, up from 800 in the mid 1980s. 5% of American workers were license-regulated in 1950, and today 23% are.

Former ABC reporter John Stossel has covered excessive regulation of individual employment and business activity.  About ten years ago he reported on cases were people were fined for writing at home (in New Jersey, Illinois, and even California, in violation of zoning laws), about regulation of African-American hair braiding in Kansas (requiring a cosmetology course), and a requirement for a commercial kitchen for a home-based bakery in North Carolina.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Windows 7 compatibility and "home network" expansions and new (musical) devices (The USB-MIDI Problem on W7)

Well, I’m getting ready to upgrade at home with a new HD videocam, and a digital piano (88 keys), and a little checking shows big trouble if I try to use Windows 7.

First, I see that Microsoft has a site for checking devices for W7 compatibility. (Count the operating systems since Windows 3 – there are indeed 7).  It’s here.  But it doesn’t look like it has a list for digital pianos. And some checking, for example, of the Casio PX130, shows USB compatibility up to Vista and no mention of W7 (link).  Then I find a “social answers forum” (here) on Microsoft with a pessimistic discussion in mid 2010 about the difficulties in getting W7 to look at a vendor’s driver, and then a definitive “answer” as to how to get around it.  Yamaha also has a W7 workaround here for the USB-MIDI driver issue. 

Which brings us back to the Mac.  If you want to work with video and musical instruments, it looks like the Mac is much easier.  Apple sells a cheaper Final Cut now for video editing, and “Logic” is Apple’s product to interpret digital music files sent from digital instruments and write them onto staffs (and then look at them on the iPad, without printing them – see my “drama blog” Jan. 20, where I talk about getting my own music setup  ).   It seems like musicians are pretty far removed from the Microslop world, and Microsoft hasn’t done anything to make it easier for this part of its potential market.

Then I looked at something else.  I have both a home Netgear router connected to Comcast, and a Verizon MiFi.  If you do “ipconfigs” on the command line on any PC, you get ipv4 addresses based on “192.168.1.(2 to 16).  But if connected to MiFi, then no wireless devices (like the printer) are accessible, and the last node can be reused, because the MiFi and Netgear don’t know about one another.  This seems to cause some conflicts.  On the older XP laptop, if I try to connect to MiFi, it thinks I’m creating a new address and asks for the 40 byte encryption key. But if you reboot, then it connects to MiFi.  Then it won’t connect to my Comcast router, from Verizon Access Manager (get the same encryption warning) but it will just with the wireless icon.
In the mean time, the last node on my “master home computer” has inched up to 15 (this may also be because of snow-related power failures), according to Netgear's "Attached devices" list (you go to and enter "admin" and "password").  Right now, I’m using nodes 2, 4 and 15.  Once it goes over 16, I hope it’s smart enough to go back to 3, which is unused, and then 5, and not try to go to 17 and fail.

It looks like my W7 machines (and I think Vista did this) also show IpV6 addresses.    

I have a feeling that the big stars on Sirius XM (like Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson) have all this taken care of for them. The Mac has made it easy, and Microsoft doesn't seem to care.

Update: Feb 7

Best Buy tells me that all accessories sold in their store are Windows 7 compatible, although Microsoft says vendors are supposed to display the compatibility trademark.  Best Buy also says that users should always use the drivers from the Internet ("the Cloud") whenever possible, rather than those on CD's, which may be out of date at the time of purchase. So the user question on how to override Microsoft (above) is wrongheaded.  

Saturday, February 05, 2011

It's hard to be a good new employee anywhere: Pay absolute attention "to things"

One of the factors that helps determine success in the workplace is concentration and paying instructions to directions when a job is new and the material is unfamiliar and not yet “ingrown”.

It is an issue, for example, in corporate training. I can recall a PowerBuilder class in 2000 that started quietly enough, but within a day the instructor was expecting students to resolve problems on their own with the Online Help, in an object-oriented environment that seems counter-intuitive to those trained in “old school” procedural programming.

Or consider what happened in the late 1980s and early 90s as mainframe shops introduced automated source control and elevation management.  Employees who did not follow less familiar instructions exactly sometimes risked making promotions of modules that ran in production, but that could be exposed to corruption.
It’s having a “problem” and the threat of getting burned that makes people learn and understand things, it seems. It’s basic animal psychology, the kind you take multiple choice tests on.

Another area of concern is in jobs where associates go out to work with clients. They are given very precise scripts of what to say to clients, and find in practice they cannot impose on their clients’ time and take conversational short cuts.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Dump analysis of Windows Blue Screens recalls mainframe days

AOL this morning greeted subscribers with a friendly user summary of how to behave if your computer presents a BSOD, or “Blue Screen of Death”, at least up through XP and Vista.   You need an old fashioned pen, because your mouse and keyboard won’t work once you have a BSOD. It’s here. The article is titled "You can beat the blue screen".  It sounds like Max Edison's "Beat the Bill Collector". 

That leads to a longer essay at “5 Star Support” (it makes me think of the Dallas “High Five” intersection), here, which tells you how to capture the dump.

And Microsoft has a KB article on dump reading that puts all those old IBM manuals on mainframe dump analysis to shame. It’s here

That all reminds me of the days of mainframe Abend-AID.  I was once asked in an interview in 1989 if I remembered how to read dumps without Abend-AID.  And I recall a video training course back in 1981 on how to do just that, with a workbook and a quiz.

Remember the days of Windows ME (around 2000)?  XP was supposed to get rid of the crashes, and it did eliminate most of them. I remember, however, back in 2003, that a Dell 8300 destkop got BSOD’s from McAfee until mcAfee fixed a problem. And I remember that Service Pack 2 took an hour to download  (broadband) and install back in 2004. 

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Windows 7 Notification: False error on audio service

Here’s another little glitch. The notification area of Windows 7 tells me “The Audio Service Is Not Running”.  But it is. Happens on both Dell XPS laptop and Toshiba notebook, once in a while. Sometimes I  have to unmute or move (drag) the volume control manually on a YouTube video, and sound works but red x stays. Usually goes away with a warm reboot.

Here’s one Microsoft Forum story on it. 

Here’s another on Windows 7 Forums.

I’ve noticed a tendency for the Notification area to lag.  Once in a while it says there is no Internet connection with a router (I have Comcast netgear, and Verizon MiFi) when Internet is working.