Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Robots won't eliminate jobs requiring real people skills

Danielle Paqette has a story about wages in the Washington Post on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 that should please Barbara Ehreneich (“Nickel and Dimed”). P. A15, “Low-paid jobs safer from robots” in print, “The worst paying jobs for college grads boasts this sneaky advantage”.
I’m not so sure this holds, as a lot of knowledge-based jobs still depend on human judgment (even day trading).  But the writer is right in that provision of personal care (especially child care or elder care) can’t really be replaced by machines.  But it may have been a “career” that was once seen as demeaning.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Facebook to hire 3000 more screeners for removing violent content; but do these jobs require the usual coding skills?

Facebook has announced it will hire up to 3000 more people to screen content (especially Facebook Live videos) in addition o the 4500 it already has, on its community operations team.  It is not clear if these jobs are all onsite or can be done at home, and if they are in multiple locations around the country.

The Los Angeles Times has a basic story here.  Wired is here  The San Francisco chronicle writes here.

Facebook has a link that explains its job interviewing process, which is multiple steps, including peer interviews, and a coding exercise that takes about a half hour.  It doesn’t say what language, and that probably depends on the position (C++, java, Perl, PHP, etc).  But the Facebook article says that coding is “fractal”.

It would sound reasonable to hire a mixture of people to screen videos, including many minorities who may recognize certain sensitivities, bilingual, and probably retirees, for social judgment.  LGBT issues in videos could require special awareness.  It's not clear if these particular jobs would require a lot of coding skills.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Should young adults consider working abroad?

I saw a newspaper article a few days ago, that I cannot locate, “If you want a job, get on a plane” and fly East. Don't be skittish about the TSA or airline behavior and delays.

But the article argued for job seekers to be open to working overseas, especially in less developed countries.  Or in more authoritarian countries, like China.

The article also noted that Americans often don’t develop usable conversational skill in second languages.  It argued that everyone should be able to carry on a conversation in Spanish, and maybe noe non-European language, especially Chinese.

Here’s an older article from a St. Louis paper making similar arguments.

All of this sounds challenging for LGBT persons, and companies with major operations in the developing world and needing to bring in people from the US or Europe for technical expertise or in other roles (teaching) could be challenged.

In early 1971, when I was facing layoff from my first job at RCA, I looked into the idea of employment overseas, especially Britain and Australia.

All of this sounds like a flip-side of Trump’s ideas of “America first.”

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Creator's Update for Windows 10 goes smoothly on ASUS then runs into a power management glitch

I did install the Windows 10 Creators Update this weekend on a new ASUS 324 laptop upon returning from a trip.

It went through two phases.  During the “working on updates” phase, it restarted twice.  The whole process of the “restart” took about 25 minutes.

After starting up and getting through the welcome screens, it seemed to work OK for a while.  Then Google Chrome froze and stopped responding.  After about a minute the computer unfroze and everything worked normally.  It seemed to be updating something else during the freeze period.

I have found one small issue with Wordpress in the Creator’s Update.  If you “copy as text” from Word to start a posting, it converts some punctuation marks into character strings.  But Wordpress updated tp 4.7.4 automatically early this morning as I got up, and that may have a Windows 10 Creators compatibility fix.  I’ll update later.  (Note: later this morning I tried it under 7.4 and it still has the same problem.)

Then late last, I turned on the ASUS on battery, and the task bar would not come up.  Applications (like Chrome or Firefox) would be clickable but would not start or load.  I found I could unfreeze the laptop by suspending it with the power button (hold it down for a second so it blinks) and then plugging in the battery to current,  Yet the battery showed a 92% charge and will charge up to 100% normally.

I reported this to Microsoft.  If the problem has not been resolved (like by another update fix) by mid week I will show it to Geek Squad.

One other issue: on an older Lenovo laptop, still with Windows 8.1, I fell behind in updates, and now the "checking for updates" loops forever and never finds them to catch up.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tech companies offer paid time-off for demonstrations (against Trump); what happened to objectivity?

Some tech companies are allowing workers to take paid time-off to join protests, especially against “Trump”, according to a Washington Post story by Abha Bhattarai

Facebook will allow employees to take paid time-off on May 1 for pro-immigration rallies.
I did not allow employers any involvement in my personal politics during my long career.  Back in August 2001, ING-ReliaStar had a sales conference in August in Minneapolis and gently encouraged “volunteers”.  Ii declined.  I went to one session and heard one paid speaker predict a 35000 Dow.  That is one reason I don’t like to  “join in” to “other people’s” causes when often they are factually wrong.

I also had an inherent “conflict of interest” which I have often written about. While working on my first DADT book, I was working for a life insurance company specializing in selling to military officers.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Electronic Frontier Foundation has an open position for digital activist

Electronic Frontier Foundation has announced a position as a Digital Activist in this announcement.   The official title for the position is “Activist: Grassroots Advocacy” and the online application is available with the article.

The full time job would require travel, working with local organizations or groups, people skills, content management skills, but, perhaps curiously (given that it is political advocacy or “activism”, so by definition not objective) journalism skills.  The job would be located in San Francisco.
By User:DaveOinSF - User:DaveOinSF, Public Domain, Link

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Microsoft is forcing Creators Update out on users quickly, and it's a big update that probably most users don't "need"

I just got Windows 10 Version 1607 (KB3150513) along with the usual defender, malicious software and adobe updates.  On both my newer laptop and the slightly older (and retrofitted on top of 8) HP Envy, the “getting windows ready” screen spun for about 15 minutes before the percentage completed updated and restarts resumed.

But Microsoft has started rolling out a more radical change, the Creators Update, build 1703.  Ars Technica has an analysis of the features, many of which matter only to gamers or very advanced visual developers.  But there are also more security features.  The update can be expected to take even longer, especially on older devices.

Less experienced users will not want to take the time right now for such a massive change that could make some devices unstable.  Microsoft will roll out the update, with a privacy settings warning (to save them, as the update overlays them with defaults), to newer devices first.  I would think many users would have to accept the update by the second week of May. There is a defer option on Professional operation systems but not on the Home edition. There are details here, or here.

But it appears that home users will be able to defer the restart for a while (details).  People may not want to do time-consuming updates right before taking laptops on trips, for example.

The Verge also has a major story here.

Update: April 16

The update popped up (after privacy settings reminded) today on the newer ASUS.  It will allow me to delay the Restart for seven days.  The shut down and restart options now allow restart without update.  (In Windows 7, Updates after shudown have happened sometimes even without being told they will happen.)

Saturday, April 08, 2017

You actually need labor (help) to keep your Internet world running

When you leave a company, and most of all when you get laid off, you leave all that work behind, modules or programs or jobs (in the mainframe world) you had supported for years.  I could say that “the bills” (around 1991) have been supplanted by “the blogs” (present day).  Same sense of instant gratification.

But I really own all my work now – the three (really four) books, and thousands of blog postings over the years, and various legacy online sidebars and essays.  As for “the bills”, I lost access to them permanently, and instantly, when my career took its cardiac arrest on December 13, 2001.

But I find that the infrastructure to keep everything going requires support, just as it did when I was working.  Companies are constantly changing things.  Google replaces Adsense on Wordpress, and I have to stop and figure out how to do it.  One day soon there will be a lot of work to go to all htpps, probably.  Even my cable TV service has sudden radical changes, with new boxes that require you to use Internet TV, effectively.  The changes are more needed by others than by me, but I have to learn how to use them.
After all, for years I worked in “in house” applications, as companies needed to pay programmers to maintain applications.  They needed to pay systems programmers to put in new gens of MVS and CICS.  Even applications programmers needed to fine tune access techniques (by like using the right SQL access techniques and avoiding deadly embrace lockouts) for high volume performance and user response time. As my little journalism experiment encompasses everything, should I be able to get away with no staff? I am the ultimate creative destroyer.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

NASA will pay "contractors" for "jobs" staying in bed for weeks, to test low gravity

Here is a job for a couch potato – well, not really.

NASA is looking for subjects to spend about 70 days in bed, and carry on all their activities without getting up.  Does that mean bed pans?

Applicants have to be in top physical condition and will go through rigorous physicals first.

Beds will be tilted toward the head at a 6-degree angle.

People could still work on a computer if able to do it lying down.  It’s not clear if sitting up is ever allowed.

NASA has sponsored various training exercises before, including some in a water tank in Huntsville AL which I visited in 1989 (and again in 2014).

Forbes has an article on the experiment.

In my own screenplay “Epiphany” the characters reside on a Rama-like space station set up on Titan, so gravity is a vector sum of artificial (spinning) with the moon of Saturn (1/7 of Earth).
Vice has a story from another participant.  Electrocardiographic leads were hooked up for the experience, according to the pictures.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

I get an all Windows 10 laptop, not converted from an earlier version

I finally picked up an all Windows 10 laptop today – a 2016 machine with Windows10 Cumulative as the original operating system, and not converted from 8 or 7.  It is the Asus “In Search of Incredibile” (like the 2005 animated movie “The Incredibles”) the Q11222.  It has a rather perfunctory quick start guide.

The trackpad now insists that you use only one finger, which is pretty hard to get used to (exception, when using a browser scroll bar).  So I got the mouse, which uses up one USB port.  There are two USB 3.0 ports, as well as a new USB-C.

The memory is 16G and the solid state drive is 512G.  It is about as fast at startup as any computer I have every had.

ASUS is from Taiwan, so I haven’t made America great again,  But at least Taiwan isn’t part of the former Red China (although there is still a one China policy)

This should be good for travel.  I don’t see Dubai or the middle East soon.  But I worry that problems with being able to carry laptops on board could spread.  But the ASUS is "well boxed".

Monday, March 13, 2017

Trump/Bannon war against federal "administrative state" has more good than bad news for job markets

Time Magazine has a feature story Marcy 20, “Inside Donald Trump’s War Against the State”  which comports with Steve Bannon’s promise “to disassemble the administrative state” (or was it "deconstruct"?).  How this matches up against nationalism, I’m not so sure.

But the Washington Post offers Damian Paletta’s front page story this morning, “Historic cuts in Trump budget; Plan would shake government; Top workforce contraction since end of World War II”.
How would this affect subsidiary jobs in the area;  will contractors also get cuts?  It seems to be mostly outside of the military and law enforcement.  Jobs in defense, homeland security and law enforcement (and especially in areas like cyber security) should increase.  W-2 contracting jobs for states' social service agencies could increase around the country if states have to take over more of their own business.   That could be good for the market nationwide but not so good locally in DC.  It might not be so good for real estate values either.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

GOP bill could give employers more access to associate genetic test results

MSN reports about a House bill that would allow employers to see employee genetic test results, if it’s in connection with an employee wellness program (presumably related to workplace hazards), story link here.

During my last year, 2001, at ING (now Voya) in Minneapolis, there was an employee wellness program that paid a slight bonus for getting an annual physical.  That resulted in my starting mild hypertension medication.

By the way, you may want to read George Will’s column, “The Liberals Who Love Eugenics”  with a video about disruptive protests at a Vermont college when libertarian author Charles Murray spoke.  I’ll mention that there have been negative news stories about IQ and immigrants from poor countries – but the cause is probably educational and cultural deprivation during childhood (which Nicholas Kristof and others want to address) and disease rather than raw genetics itself.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Companies pay their associates to disconnect completely during vacation

NBC News reported tonight that some companies will actually pay associates a bonus for staying disconnected from work during a vacation.  That means no reading of email or accessing corporate servers in any way (as to check on production cycles in I,T.)  NBC’s link for the report is here.

One of the companies was Olark Live Chat in San Francisco.  The report also mentioned Seed Factory Branding in Atlanta.

Unplugged vacations are legally mandatory in some European countries.

During my last two years at ING I did have four weeks vacation.  I went to Europe twice (1999, 2001).

Since I know somebody at Interface Engineering, I wonder how it fits into this paradigm.  The "paperless" drive is interesting.  Twenty years ago, it was common for people (me especially) to keep hardcopy paper trails for CYA purposes.  That's not feasible today, and absolute adherence to proper elevation procedures (wrt to security) is more important now than it was three decades ago. You want to forget your job when you are a few thousand miles away on vacation.  Or maybe you're in a space station orbit.  Sorry, to go to Mars it's a minimum of 3-4 years.

Picture: Brown Mountain, NC.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Are there "best places to work"?

Washingtonian Magazine has an article “50 Great Places to Work in Washington”(March 2017), link here.

The list online isn’t quite the same as in print.  For example, online we see American Immigration Lawyers, which is an interesting choice given the times (and the people helping immigrants need as much legal help sometimes as the immigrants themselves).

The last comprises a variety of small companies, some with fewer than 25 associates.  Many are partially “employee owned” – wonder if that means you get paid in stock.  Many offer all kinds of generous benefits and paid, gender-neutral family leave. All would be LGBTQ friendly, probably (although one of them is mostly working moms).

They are in a variety of businesses (one even sells cars);  some are Beltway-bandit software companies.  Some are in healthcare.

Many are located just outside the Beltway (Rockville MD is popular).

Friday, February 17, 2017

Facebook, Linked-In add new widgets for job seekers, especially for people who don't know they're looking

Facebook will help you find a job, even if you aren’t looking, according to a Washington Post story Friday by Abha Bhattarai.   It will provide widgets to enable you to apply for jobs from Facebook, based on your likes and behaviors.

It would sound conceivable that this could put me in touch with news outlets to become a “real” journalist at 73.

But I wouldn’t look at conventional sales jobs.  Being interested in classical music doesn’t make me want to call people to get them to buy concert subscriptions (any more).

Linked-In wants you to apply for jobs on its site under your boss’s nose, story by Jena McGregor here.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Some employers offering "free" branding tattoos

This hardly sounds relevant to IT, but I’ve noted a story about a pizza company offering free tattoos of the company logo to associates, Washington Post story by Abha Bhattarai     The company seems to have a generic name (&pizza).

I would wonder what happens if an employee leaves.  It seems that some of the tattoos were intrusive, covering entire forearms or chests.
A new idea, though, could be to use DuoSkin for temporary branding tattoos, or new “exterior implants” to unlock doors, access computers. Etc.   Could body art, previously considered uncouth, become mandatory?  Your body doesn’t seem to be completely your own anymore.  Remember the barber shop the first morning of Army Basic?

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Rare laptop fire at southern CA home; fortunately, "the kids are all right"

A 2006 Dell laptop exploded while charging on a couch in a southern California home recently.  It exploded four times before finally stopping.  The kids were home and fortunately nothing else caught fire. The story is here.

The old laptop had a lithium battery that had been recalled.  Such fires are rare, but the incident could raise question again about airlines.

Most of us have to carry our laptops with us, as hotel business centers are generally rather inadequate. Yet, around 2000 or so it was still common for people to depend on Internet cafes with desktops (like Kinkos) with time to rent while traveling.

Remember, Donald Trump says, "No computer is safe".

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Spicer hints at the idea of "conflict of interest" in speech only in federal jobs

Sean Spicer has been underscoring the idea that people should leave jobs where they disagree with what the boss wants them to do, as in this story in The Hill about employee reaction to Trump’s immigration ban.  Today, Tillerson, in taking over State, was more accommodating but told employees to “do their jobs”.

Along these lines, several departments have been embargoed from sending out tweets especially on areas like climate change.

This would not normally affect employees with their own social media accounts, or would it?  I’ve always said that once someone has direct reports and can make underwriting decisions that affect others, one loses the right to one’s own public voice (without gatekeepers) separate from work. Back in the 90s, with my work situation and gays in the military, this was a potentially big conflict of interest.

And then in the 2000’s, I suppose that when I was in my old job market, I suppose my tendency to report “like a journalist” on everything I saw later (without gatekeepers) could be seen as making me a potential long stream whistleblower threat as a hire.

Trump's hiring freeze on Federal employees (outside of defense and law enforcement) may hide a bigger problem:  if Trump is serious about replacing Obamacare, the government, or especially its contractors, will need to hire much more mature people than they did before.  And Hillary Clinton's email scandal shows a lack of judgment and maturity in her own IT staff letting her get into this kind of trouble.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Sub-min wage employee dependent on tips get abused by employers

The “Working World” column in the Washington Post Magazine Nov. 20, 2016 has an article by Paula Brantner from her “workplace fairness” feature, “Do these policies reach the tipping point?”

This concerns a letter from a mother about a daughter who works as a waitress for sub-minimum wage ($2.13 an hour) plus tips.  The trouble is employers can require some untipped time at the same rate (up to 20% of hours), and can pool tips.  And work can be regimented, nontstop. 

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Swedish company pushes little microchip skin implants for identification in the workplace

A Swedish company called Epicenter has been promoting RFID’s (“Radio Frequency Identification Chips”), the size of a rice grain, that are somehow planted on the side of the hand or wrist, maybe with a technology like DuoSkin. Here’s the best link I can find on Facebook.

I wouldn’t like the idea of having skin implants for work.  But I don’t do tattoos or body art, which have gradually become more acceptable with the modern workplace dress codes. But making them standard?
Remember the line in “Magic Mike” where Channing Tatum’s model character is asked by Cody Horn, “Why do you shave your legs for work?”  Especially when he’s not a drag queen.