March 2012

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Today is the end of the third month, so where am I with those goals?

  1. Reading goals:
    1. Complete unfinished novel series. 7 of 24 done. That is 29%. I should be at 25%. So I am a little ahead.
    2. American History and Decision Making. 2 of 9 done. That is 22%. So a behind 25%. (A quarter of a book would put me back on target.)
    3. Science. 2 of 8 done. That is 25%. So I am right on track.
    4. Read 50 books. I have read 13 of 50. That is 26%. So I am a little ahead.
  2. Publish an average of four blog posts a week. This post makes 57 of 208. That is 28%. So I am a little ahead.

Both 1b books and one of the 1c books were read in the past couple weeks so I could not appear too behind.

I was asked about a month ago how I am able to spend so much time reading. Well, it helps to be single, have no children, and hold one job.

m4s0n501

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A CNN article on the $640 million lottery jackpot tonight revealed something interesting.

According to data crunched by Bloomberg, Georgia residents are the biggest “suckers.” They spend an average of $471 per year on the lottery, or 1% of their average income, while receiving a payout of 63 cents on the dollar.

Yeah, but I got some of the 15-25 cents on the dollar in the form of the HOPE scholarship paid for my (and millions of other kids’) college education. Pell helped as well. So did family and working.

Probably I could have achieved it without the scholarship. Then again I probably would still be paying off my student loans.

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Abraham Maslow proposed a theory in A Theory of Human MotivationPsychological Review, motivation works to fulfill baser needs before addressing loftier needs. In a discussion the other day, I mentioned we have to have a rock solid infrastructure and stability of services to the point they are a utility and no users think about them causing them problems before we can focus well on innovation.

It occurred today maybe this would be an information technology equivalent to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The IT Value Hierarchy proposes something that looks like what I was thinking.

    • Paradigm Shift at the top
    • Competitive Differentiation
    • Integrated Information
    • Security and Stability
    • Infrastructure at the base

Once the infrastructure issues are solved such that the foundation is solid, then organizational focus can turn to security and stability. Without a solid infrastructure, security and stability are undermined. People fight fires that distract them from what they should be doing. The investments in equipment and time should be prioritized to ensure these.  The message from leadership should recognize the infrastructure foundation as more of a priority to get right than innovation at the time. Signalling the paradigm shift is most important means we should neglect the foundation. Not that we really can neglect the foundation, it just becomes a constant barrage of emergencies such that the paradigm shift becomes painful.

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Brené Brown talks anput the fear of disconnection from the social fabric. To me this ties well with a book, Loneliness, where a big point is that social isolation hits the same areas of the brain as physical pain.

In case the above video does not show, the try this link The power of vulnerability.

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Facebook is a useful tool for gathering information about others. From the beginning, the advice has been to be careful that what is posted well represents us. Or… To limit who can see those things we might not want seen.

Hiring managers also have a difficult situation. Is who you are looking to hire who they say they are? One approach is to look at what candidates offer publicly. Another is to friend the candidate. In both cases, I as a candidate can easily hide information by controlling who can see it. It looks like the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services wanted to know if applicants had gang affiliations. Intelligent users would not publicly proclaim this information, but they might have the information privately available.

Michael Covington says in his blog you could be committing a crime in Georgia by giving out your Facebook password:

An employer who asks for your password is potentially requiring you to commit an illegal act (unauthorized computer password disclosure) under the laws of Georgia and other places, as well as breaching your contract with Facebook. Your password is not yours to give away. You have agreed, as part of the terms of service, to keep it secret. (And while you’re looking at the Georgia law, look at computer invasion of privacy, too.)

The relevant code from the page to which he linked:

(e) Computer Password Disclosure. Any person who discloses a … password, or other means of access to a … computer network knowing that such disclosure is without authority and which results in damages (including the fair market value of any services used and victim expenditure) to the owner of the … computer network in excess of $500.00 shall be guilty of the crime of computer password disclosure.

So, if by giving your Facebook password to a potential employer you cause more than $500 to Facebook or another entity with that account, then you face criminal penalties. Causing damages with the account whose password was given out is the key, which I think would require the user of the password doing something criminal with the account. You as the holder of the account are a criminal. What kind of penalties?

(h) Criminal Penalties.

…(2) Any person convicted of computer password disclosure shall be fined not more than $5,000.00 or incarcerated for a period not to exceed one year, or both.

Worse, you intentionally violate the Terms of using Facebook by giving an employer the password. Facebook emphatically rejects that employers should ask for a password.

4. Registration and Account Security

8. You will not share your password,… let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.

I have seen a compromise suggested, where a candidate logs into the account and lets someone else look around for whatever it is they seek. Even that makes me squirm.

Privacy is always a tough issue, but I think when in doubt side with preserving that of the individual.

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  • Meet Saba, the Social Network That Rates Your Job Skills
    • Convincing a boss that you are valuable to the organization is important to keep a job. Assessing an employee is doing a good job is also tricky when there are no easy metrics. For my performance appraisals I have to provide goals and be assessed what are not at all quantitative. But then, identifying useful quantitative goals presents its own difficulties, namely wrong incentives. If I am assessed on creating databases, then the incentive is to create databases regardless of whether they are used. If I am assessed on closed tickets, then the incentive will encourage me when in doubt to close a ticket rather than leave it open. (This latter in the wrong headed behavior we complain about from vendors.) Along comes Saba who will incentivize improving pQ scores by accruing followers, getting cited, and getting comments. Great stuff except no where in my job description does it talk about publishing, so I doubt anyone from my supervisor up will care.
  • Job seekers getting asked for Facebook passwords
    • Quote: ‘Chief Deputy Rusty Thomas defended the practice, saying [job] applicants have a right to refuse. But no one has ever done so. Thomas said that “speaks well of the people we have apply.”‘ Remember passwords for chocolate? Small incentives mean people give up small bits of privacy. Large incentives such as to get a job mean people give up large bits of privacy.

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At around 16-17 years old I did not have a car. So I rode my bike or walked anywhere I wanted to go. Store managers sometimes searched my backpack or my person only to find I had not in fact shoplifted anything. Loss control or security guards would follow me around the store. Neighborhood watch people kicked me out. Police interrogated me about what had been doing and intended to do. This pattern of distrust about who I am was well prepared for as my father raised me to understand it could happen not just “the talk” but ongoing pointing out to think about how about how others perceive me. He wanted me not to get upset because my anger would play into their hands proving I am dangerous like they assumed. Also, just obeying commands to get out of the situation could prevent things from escalating out of control. (Interestingly work’s security expert gave the same obey advice when police are looking for a suspect.)

Every time it was upsetting. Even today almost two decades later, in the back of my head I know that I have to avoid behaviors that will draw suspicion because I am likely guilty until proven innocent. It is better to go into a store wearing a dress shirt or polo with slacks than shorts and a teeshirt. If I take my phone out of my pocket, then it stays out until at the cashier where putting something in my pocket is normal. And while I may think of wearing a basketball jersey so TSA thinks I am black not potentially arabic, never ever ever wear a hoodie because that slides me in the direction of appearing to be a criminal.

This is why I feel sad Trayvon Martin‘s family lost him because a self-appointed neighborhood watch character armed with a gun decided to follow, then chase, then ambush this 17 year old kid in a hoodie armed with Skittles and tea. Nothing can fully repair this.

Zimmerman, Trayvon’s killer, said on the 911 call Martin was acting guilty of something. This was also the stated reason the store managers, security guards, neighborhood watch, and police stopped me at Trayvon’s age. Who isn’t when creepy people follow them around?

The whole thing smacks me of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 London. A guy leaves his apartment. Guys follow him onto a train. He tries to run from them only they turn out to be police who shoot him. His crime was both living in an apartment building under surveillance and attempting to resist people who did not look like police but were.

Resist? Get shot. Run? Get shot. Do whatever the people with the guns say and maybe live to tell a lawyer.

Last weekend, a female friend, described how she would not be willing to just obey commands. As a big black guy, I have to worry about keeping people from worrying about me attacking them. If provoked, then they are going to put me down lethally or non-lethally. For my female friend, she has to worry about rape, but she is also does not present the physical threat I do. We have two completely different perspectives. But I think we understand each other’s.

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Adam Savage holds the position of my favorite story teller. Part of it might be that he speeds his rate of talking up to the edge of where I think he is about to stumble, but he does not. It lends to sensing his excitement. He talks about Feynman and Eratosthenes here.

If the above video does not work, then try How simple ideas lead to scientific discoveries

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Several friends mentioned reading the Hunger Games over the past few months. The movie opened last night. (No, I have little interest in either seeing the movie or reading the book. But then I was late to jump on the Harry Potter bandwagon plus have not yet jumped on the Twilght or Sookie Stackhouse bandwagons.) Presumably people were reading the book because of the movie. That should mean book sales increased, right? UPDATE 2012-MAR-18: Oh, right, in the NovelRank graph below and others, the trend appears to be sales decrease in the months before the movie release. I probably should check again on April 1st to see if March stays low. Maybe Jan/Feb buyers delayed for March? /UPDATE

So I went looking for information on sales.

My first mistake was thinking to look at best seller lists. The New York Times, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble lists all provide ranks. NYT bases its on numbers reported from various book stores. Amazon and B&N base theirs on their own sales. Ranks do not equate to sales volume. The difference between any two ranks could be 1 unit or 1,000. All three lists only provide rank. Only the NYT provides old lists. It would be really cool for Amazon or B&N to make available a chart showing the popularity over time. Though, because it is just rank, I could see some obsessive types worrying about dropping from #1 to #2 when sales stayed the same.

Strangely Amazon and B&N both ranked the Hunger Games paperback #1 with other editions and sequels also show up in the top 100. NYT did not have it. Depending on the kinds of stores used by the NYT, I could see this being true.

I did run across an interesting site called NovelRank. It purports to provide exactly what I want: sales numbers over time.

NovelRank Hunger Games

NovelRank Hunger Games

Then the numbers seemed absurdly small. Over the past year, Amazon sold less than 28,000 copies of the Hunger Games paperback? Hardbacks added another 10,000 and Kindle editions another 11,000? All combined less than 50,000 copies over the past year?

According to the NovelRank FAQ:

Are sales estimates 100% accurate? Book sales estimates are still estimates, and for books selling a low volume ( less than 100 copies a month for instance ) the estimates are most likely accurate within 1%. In the end, it is all based on sales rank changes rather than sales numbers, and NovelRank should not be used to dispute hard sales figures from publishers or Amazon.

Again, these are sales ranks used to imply unit sales volume. That could explain why the numbers seem too small.

Ah, well. Hopefully the information exists somewhere and my short adventure looking for it just needed a few more hours.

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  • The Value in Wowing Your Customers – ‘What distinguishes Chick-fil-A and Rackspace is that both companies have created what might be called a “Golden Rule” culture. Employees treat customers as they would like to be treated if they were in the customers’ shoes.’
    • I do have to admit, companies who treat me personally well earn my loyalty. If I am treated as just another faceless customer, then I tend to get bored and treat them as just another faceless company.
  • I Didn’t Tell Facebook I’m Engaged, So Why Is It Asking About My Fiancé?
    • An interesting look at what analytics can get those who have the data.

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