CTO Breakfast

Last Friday was the monthly CTO Breakfast with Phil Windley. There was a big crowd, as usual, and good discussion.

Phil gave three people time to demonstrate “something cool”. The first was a demonstration of the new desktop version of Suse Linux with Expose-type features and cool desktop switching. The second was a demonstration of some of the new mobile offering from SCO. Both presentations seemed too “salesy” but both were interesting.

The third presentation was from Dallan Quass, demonstrating his new genealogy website called WeRelate. He’s doing very interesting things with WeRelate. It is a user-editable Wiki of genealogical information as well as a search engine. If you edit the Miller page to indicate that “Muller” is a common variation of “Miller” then the search engine will look for those pages too. (As a Mormon missionary in Brazil my name was often pronounced Müller.)

After the presentations there was great discussion. Here are my notes:

  • Groovy is an open source, dynamic interpretation of Java. It uses the same library. Grails is a Rails equivalent for Groovy.
  • I mentioned Twaingle, though I didn’t remember the name, which is a mashup between Flickr and a TWAIN driver.
  • Popcorn from Roxio makes it easy to get videos onto your iPod.
  • Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink inspired Bruce at SCO to do “blind interviews”. When doing job interviews he puts a whiteboard between himself and the candidate so as to not be influenced by visual impressions. He said it has helped.
  • We are becoming “cyborgs” in a way — our exocortex is a combination of Google, our email, and other online resources that presumably make us faster and more efficient.
  • Scott Lemon referred to the overhead of phone calls as a “human politeness protocol overhead”. It’s much faster to use chat or Nextel’s Direct Connect than email or a phone because you don’t have to go through the pleasantries of hello and goodbye.
  • Croquet is an open source online game being developed by computer scientist Alan Kay. Will be a great learning tool for children and a model for studying distributed parallel computing.
  • In Croquet, any movement by a character is transmitted to all other machines, even if the movement isn’t rendered. A representation of the loss of privacy?
  • In Croquet, voice chats are muted depending on how close you are to the other person. If you whisper, others won’t hear you. (Spatial volume control.)
  • Bruce commented it would be nice if a 3D fly-through of his projects was automatically generated from code, the way documentation is generated. I wonder if Google Sketchup could be a start.
  • In Second Life, each server represents 16 acres of virtual land.
  • Squeak is a Smalltalk derivative that can be used to teach programming to children.
  • Scott said the current model of programming won’t survive. U.S. computers science students won’t be coders, the same way U.S. auto workers aren’t metallurgists. Americans in the tech field will have to be concerned with higher level architecture and management since an army of programmers in India, the Philippines and elsewhere will do the coding for so much cheaper.
  • In the Philippines, $2700/year is average salary. In India, $5000/year.
  • Someone mentioned that they were testing job candidates by asking them to conceptualize a double linked list, a task that ought to be easy for any computer science student. Most failed.
  • Phil Burns asked if candidates were allowed to call for help or use the Internet, since that models real life.
  • Phil said Provo Labs is starting to hire based on candidates’ networks — the size of their LinkedIn profile and their address book. If technical help can be outsourced and answers found online, it doesn’t make sense to hire based on skill alone.
  • Will the future bring people together temporarily (1099 employees) for ad-hoc projects, then disband?
  • In some cities it’s common to see workers gather in the morning at a corner, then a work truck will come by, ask for several of them, and then the group will disband. Will technical projects approach that? It’s possible to find temporary help for any technical skill online. Labor as a liquid asset.
  • See Future of Work by Thomas Malone

One reply on “CTO Breakfast”

Sounds like a great event. Especially for hiring at the senior levels, it makes sense to look at the quantity and quality of the candidate’s relationships because business gets done a lot more efficiently that way.

We also hear from HR folks that they get more and more candidates walking in with a print-out of their LinkedIn profile because they don’t keep their resume in Word anymore. I think profiles are a lot more credible since they are a kind of peer-reviewed resume. People are less likely to over-state their achievements if they know their former co-workers (who know their work) are looking at it.

While endorsements don’t replace reference checks, I find it helpful to read upfront what former co-workers, reports and managers say about the candidate than being just limited to what they say themselves. This is especially helpful if the endorsement is from someone I know or from somebody one of my contacts knows.

And then I use “one-click reference checks” to find former colleagues that the candidate didn’t present as references. This can be extremely interesting.

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