Monday, February 27, 2012

Some Recruiting Ideas for HR To Work With

HR departments at companies I have worked at typically like to remind employees of the referral program. So far so good--I am a big fan of referrals. I have had some real success stories, as a referrer of talent, but other times, I have been rather disappointed by the reception I have gotten from Recruiting.

Don't get me wrong--I don't expect, or even want, anybody to be hired just because I said they were good. I want every candidate to be thoroughly vetted, and a HIRE decision only to be made if they are top-notch. What I do hope is that their resume will be given a very careful look, and if there is any promise at all (which there almost certainly is, or I would not be referring them), that they be given a phone interview. From there, it is all in the hands of the recruiter and hiring manager.

So here is an idea. HR needs to apply some statistics to the case of referrals. Treat all internal referrals with the respect they are due, but treat some more seriously than others. Specifically, keep stats on your referrers. For those with a good track record, treat the referral with even more gravity. You can share this factor with the hiring manager, too.

Android Notifications Have Room for Improvement

Since 1.0, Android has gotten high marks for its notifications bar. It was often the one thing even hardcore iPhone partisans might acknowledge as superior. I like it, but I'm not completely convinced it is so great. My biggest complaint is notification-bar clutter. More and more apps seem to want to take up space there--often to simply tell you they are actively running. The better ones allow you to turn this off as a Setting, but that is tedious, too.[1]

In this case, I don't have an immediate, strong recommendation how to fix the problem, but I am pretty sure it is fixable, if given enough attention.
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[1] Similar to the ridiculous clutter of the Windows tray icon bar, except with less real estate to work with.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Human "Weakness" for A Good Story

Humans love stories. We seem to be wired to learn by stories. For the most part, stories are wonderful, both as recreation, and as a means of learning. BUT.

Sometimes that love of stories amounts to a cognitive flaw. We believe untruth because it makes such a good story. Journalists distort the truth, sometimes perhaps without fully realizing it, in order to produce a story with a satisfying "arc". Politicians constantly over-simplify complex issues in order to boil them down to a good story.

This article truth-squadding the oft-repeated claim that Michael Jordan was cut from his high-school basketball team is a good example. I've heard that story for years, and more-or-less accepted it without thinking about whether it is true or not. Based on the convincing evidence in the article, it's just not true. But it makes such a good story!

It also illuminates "emotional truth" versus Factual Truth. I use that first term very cautiously, because I come down on the side of capital-T, empirical and factual Truth. Still, emotions are also a vital dimension of being human, so it is important to understand their role. In the case of being cut from his squad, to MJ, it probably did feel like he had been cut. Per the article, he used that to his everlasting motivational advantage. That strikes me as perfectly reasonable, and functional. But it still doesn't make it factually true that he was cut.

So what is my point? What difference does it make if a few hundred million people  believe a story about Michael Jordan's high-school career that, while not a wild fabrication, is not fully accurate? About that specific example--I don't know. Maybe it doesn't make any difference at all.

But as the saying goes, practice makes permanent. By training ourselves to question stories that seem too good to be true, and insisting always on verification, we build up our mental muscle so that we have resistance to allowing ourselves to be misled by the power of "a true story", in cases where it does matter.

In the end, no good comes from untruth

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dumb Gmail Feature: "Consider Inviting..."

In general, Google is pretty judicious in not adding a lot of feature clutter. An exception is the thing they added to Gmail a while ago, that "recommends" other people to cc: based on who you address an email to. So if I frequently send/receive emails from all the people in my table tennis club, whenever I address an email to some individual member of the club, Google will "helpfully" tell me I should "consider inviiting" all the other people in the club. As useless features go, this one is not too bad, just not helpful.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why Romeo and Juliet?

My 9th grade son is getting his first exposure to Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet. Same way I was first exposed to Shakespeare. And he is having the same reaction I had--not engaged.

Why oh why does the education establishment keep doing the same, unproductive thing. Can you imagine a Shakespeare play less appealing to a 9th grade male than that one?? There are so many better choices--Othello, perhaps?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Apps I Have Been Waiting For

Sign of smartphones maturing as app platforms, some things I have wanted since before the dawn of Android have become available.

1. Big Mute Button. Crucial for those of us who use our phones for teleconferences. This was actually pretty good by Android 2.x, but I have a new HTC Phone and "Sense" obscures the Android functionality without making a substitute of its own. So back to sereral clicks every time I need to toggle mute (which is A LOT!). But I found an app MicMuter, that gives me what I need--a big, floating, can't miss Mute toggle button. Kind of silly to pay $3.40 for this, but it gives me what I need.

2. A good Alarm Clock. Lots of them actually--though still no single one is quite perfect.

3. The first baby steps to my phone as a universal remote control.

4. A little love for conference calls...not the fully integrated experience I wrote about 4 years ago, but a nice baby step: Conference Caller, an app that turns the process of dialing the access number, entering your conference code and then PIN into a 1-click process.