Monthly Archives: February 2013

People of Groupon

After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today.
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Farewell letter from now former CEO of Groupon.

How I Fired Myself.

One of the peculiarities of my development environment was that I ran all my code against the production database.

The quiet way this story is told brings sympathy for the author. The story itself describes quite possibly the most ridiculously stupid situation in software development that I have heard of.

The comeback of static typing

Contrary to conventional thinking, I actually find statically typed languages to be good for projects that undergo a lot of churn, either because the problem requires an experimental approach or the requirements are hazy (as with the case with a lot of start-ups). Although it’s much easier to start hashing things out in a dynamically typed language, I noticed that as the codebase became larger, it becomes much harder for me to feel confident about the various changes I was making without the presence of proper tests. And, tests are painful to maintain when there is a lot of churn happening. Static typing does not replace tests, but it definitely catches a lot of stupid errors and makes refactoring code really easy. Apart from better IDE support, you also get the confidence that when the code compiles, you can be reasonably sure that atleast syntactically things are alright.

On a JavaScript conference I recently attended, static typing was all the rage, just as dynamic typing was few years ago during the advent of Ruby, Python and JS. Everything old is new again.

Here’s How You Buy Your Way Onto The New York Times Bestsellers List – Forbes

ResultSource, a San Diego-based marketing consultancy, specializes in getting books onto bestseller lists, according to The Wall Street Journal. For clients willing to pay enough, it will even guarantee a No. 1 spot. It does this by taking bulk sales and breaking them up into more organic-looking individual purchases, defeating safeguards that are supposed to make it impossible to “buy” bestseller status.
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If you buy enough copies of your own book, then it WILL become a bestseller.

Don’t let user experience design methods die

But to call UX methods “terrible” ignores the fact that most of us work in organizations where building good experiences is only 50% design challenge. The other 50% is organizational challenge to get all stakeholders pulling in the right direction. And in the right context, UX methods can be extremely helpful to address both types of challenges.
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Another 37signals employee voices broad stroke generalizations, this time about UX methods.

No, I’m not going to download your bullshit app

Attempt to find the story you wanted to read using a layout and information architecture that’s completely different from the layout and information architecture of the website that you’ve grown familiar with, because some arsehole decided that the process of reading the electronic equivalent of a newspaper needs to be “disrupted” because he’s been reading far too much Seth Godin or some other bullshit.

This is what happens to a person when forced to download one more pointless news app too much.

Hiring Engineers, a Process

The goal of the in-person interview is to evaluate the following areas:

  • Cultural fit – are you going to be a good addition to the team and work well with others? Will we enjoy working with you? Will we want to go to a conference with you? Also, as a team with remote members, evaluate your compatibility with our style and process.
  • Adaptability – we work in a mixed environment where we have control over our systems but little control over the services we consume. Working in this environment, with many legacy systems isn’t for everyone.
  • Passion – everyone should have something they are passionate about. What are you? We’ll try to find yours and chat about it a bit. It doesn’t have to be super relevant. The goal is to see how deep you dive into topics that excite you. My 2 hours interview at Yahoo! included an hour discussion about water gardens. It was awesome.

The on-site interview is usually 2-3 hours long with 3-5 team members. I usually ask each interviewer to focus on one of the areas above.

A former manager and current programmer shares his views on interviewing programers. There’s a lot of good advice here, especially on how to interview for attitude.

What I learned from time away from the internet and email

In general, when I wanted to hop onto Techmeme or Google News or Hacker News or Twitter/Nuzzel, instead I opened up my to-do list. As a result, I got a ton of stuff done in January. I quickly learned that if something important was happening, I’d hear about it from someone else.

It’s such an chicken and egg problem: how would I learn about this profound method of not for Hacker News?

A farewell to bioinformatics

This all seems an inauspicious beginning for a field. Anything so worthless should quickly shrivel up and die, right? Well, intentionally or not, bioinformatics found a way to survive: obfuscation. By making the tools unusable, by inventing file format after file format, by seeking out the most brittle techniques and the slowest languages, by not publishing their algorithms and making their results impossible to replicate, the field managed to reduce its productivity by at least 90%, probably closer to 99%. Thus the thread of failures can be stretched out from years to decades, hidden by the cloak of incompetence.

A rant about the not very public side of bioinformatics.

Tech Confessional: The Googler Who Looked At The Worst Of The Internet

Sitting in the sun at a tech company cafeteria, this former Google worker described a year spent immersed in some of the darkest content available on the Internet. His role at the tech company mainly consisted of reviewing things like bestiality, necrophilia, body mutilations (gore, shock, beheadings, suicides), explicit fetishes (like diaper porn) and child pornography found across all Google products — an experience that he found “scarring.” The company refused to make him a full-time worker, keeping him on contract status without much of a support system.
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That sounds terrifying, yet the worst thing this person seem to complain about is that he wasn’t hired full time.