Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Quality of Personnel

I'm not a very demanding person. I'm pretty easy going and I try to see the best in people. However, recently I've been doing phone screens and interviews of potential candidates for a senior developer position for a project on which I am the technical lead and I've been stunned by the low quality of the majority of candidates.

I used to do pretty light phone screens: going over their resume and asking questions about it. But I found that when they arrived for a face-to-face technical interview they failed it dismally. So my phone screens have changed and I'm asking technical questions much earlier in the interview so I don't waste time.

Today I did two phone screens and I got no further than a few questions on basic programming and C#. Both candidates were ignorant of simple basics. I wasn't asking anything esoteric, just simple basics that any programmer worth the title should know. Sort of like asking an auto mechanic "What is an internal combustion engine?" If he doesn't know that then you sure aren't going to give him your car to fix.

I also read an article recently that said a senior programmer at Microsoft asked a particular question during interviews and that only 2 out of 200 applicants where able to answer it correctly. It was another very basic question.

This experience is making me think that our flashy, hi-tech society is actually teetering on the edge of catastrophe because the majority of people who create the flashy, hi-tech infrastructure don't understand what they are doing. It's a scary thought.

Luckily there are solution:
Reverse the Declining state of Literacy
Be Competent

Sunday, November 18, 2007

My Excuse

My blogging has been rather sparse of late. My excuse is that I've been working 50 - 70 hours a week for the last 4 months and when not working all I wanted to do was eat, sleep or veg.

The project is over now and I'm hoping the next version of the software, which I'm working on now, won't have quite such a psychotic schedule. My plan to prevent such an eventuality is contained in the books Software Project Survival Guide and Rapid Development, both by Steve McConnell. I read both of them cover-to-cover and I'm also reading his other book Code Complete. I wish I'd read all these books a few years ago, they would have made my life a lot easier.

So with my excuses said, I'm going to get back to more regular posting (yeah, that's what they all say). No really. I will. Honest.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Vitamins are useless and dangerous???

The Reader's Digest magazine has once more proven itself to be the ally of its advertisers. If you look at a copy of Reader's Digest you'll notice that the majority of ads are for drugs, so it comes as no surprise that in the latest edition of this mouthpiece for the pharmaceutical industry the main article is called "Vitamin Hoax". Yes, the message of the article is that not only are vitamins useless but they are even dangerous.

If you are a person who reads without much evaluation of the information you will be frightened off taking any vitamins or other supplements. For example, vitamin E is toxic and vitamin C is completely useless at helping with a cold. So get out the NyQuil and drug yourself into oblivion while making a nice profit for the drug companies.

If, however, you are a person who pays attention to what you read and you evaluate the information, you will notice a couple of things:

On vitamin E the article doesn't say what sort of vitamin E the tests were done with. This is a huge omission. If you take lots of Alpha-Tocopherol (which is what most vitamin E supplements are) they sure it could be toxic, but it isn't vitamin E. Vitamin E is made up of many tocopherols and the correct sort to take is the vitamin E containing "mixed-tocopherols". So right away we see that the study was a bogus study because it didn't study vitamin E but instead one small part of it. Sort of like studying a tire and making pronouncements about cars.

On Vitamin C the article once more doesn't say what sort of vitamin C. Was it plain ascorbic acid? Did it include bioflavanoids? But what is even more telling is that the tests were done with 200 mg of Vitamin C per day. Wow - 200 mg? That's like going to a burning 3 story building, throwing a glass of water on it and saying that water is useless for putting out fires. Every place I've every looked to see how much Vitamin C to take if you get a cold, it says you take 1000 mg per hour until you get the runs, then you take 1000 mg less than that each day until the cold goes away.

So, if you have the misfortune to be stuck somewhere for a long period and the only reading matter is the Reader's Digest, be warned!