Monday, April 29, 2013

Software lets employers play "Big Brother" with associates (on work habits) and teachers (on study habits)

Check this story on CNN by Bob Greene, “Is Big Brother Coming to Your Job?” .  Yes.  Read the story here.

The article talks about the way teachers and professors can monitor students’ study habits with CourseSmart e-books (link).   I had covered this on my Issues blog April 9. 
But it’s pretty obvious that this applies to the workplace – first of all, in training courses.  It's difficult to learn a new language (say PowerBuilder or even java) from scratch and solve problems from the Help screens -- without doing a whole project first.  Training is going to get more difficult any way, given the piecemeal nature of most work assignments.  Really great coders start as teens, when they get interested in something on their own (as did Zuckerberg, Fanning, Hughes, Hotz, D'Aloisio). Coders are almost like musicians and composers -- sometimes both.  
More relevant, it’s possible to track how efficient programmers are in getting done. 
In fact, back in the 1960s and early 1970s, when people worked from decks of cards, some employers (especially overseas) tracked how many submissions a programmer took to get an assignment compiled and working.  “Desk checking” as labor-intensive and mandatory, (I heard stories about this from a boss who had started his career at a bank in Pakistan.)
In 1972, I worked for Univac as a site representative, and for a while I was assigned to Public Service Electric and Gas in downtown Newark  NJ (offices right next to Penn Station then).  I wrote, in Univac assembler, a program called “BigBR” (“Big Brother”) that analyzed the system logs for utilization of all utilities by individual programmers.   One time, while I was across the river in NYC, I thought we had lost all the logs, but it turned out we hadn’t.  

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