Sunday, August 19, 2007

Background Checks

Sometimes I wonder just how in-depth the background checks that some companies do on potential employees really are. I mean, it’s fairly a given anymore that they’ll look for a criminal record, check your credit history (which, in my opinion is rather stupid. I understand why they do it, even if they don’t understand it themselves, and I don’t agree with it), and the like.

However, you frequently hear these horror stories of companies going google happy and trying to find any little piece of negative information on potential candidates that they can. The thing that they don’t seem to realize is that, if you look hard enough, you’ll find *something* to dislike about a person’s past online (whether it’s true or not is a completely different matter).

I’ve always kind of wondered just when I was going to be confronted with something from my past in an interview that I really don’t want to discuss. I even have a feeling that I know what the something would be, and I know with a fair amount of certainty how I would react to it - the interview would be over right there.

(The people who know me pretty well could make a good guess at what it is, and know that it’s a touchy subject)

To be perfectly honest, I really am a fairly private person. There are a lot of things in my past that I don’t talk about with most people – partially because I don’t often want to think about them (or deal with the dreams even though I have to sometimes anyway) and partly because it’s none of their bloody business. My personal life is just that – mine and personal.

That’s not to say that I’m closed off or frigid. It’s just that there are a lot of things in my life that aren’t up for public scrutiny. This is largely because I don’t feel like purposely ripping open old wounds. I do that enough inadvertently as it is.

Now, before you start wondering what skeletons are in my closet, don’t bother. There are no convictions, trials, etc in my past (other than a couple of traffic tickets because I was going to be late for tests and those were just “pay the fine, and have a nice day” affairs) nor do I do drugs (other than caffeine or the occasional over the counter pain killer), have carnal relations with farm animals, or anything else of that sort.

Granted, some people might think the martial training and sword collection are causes for alarm, but that’s their problem.

A lot of the private things in my life are a result of actually having lived and having been involved with a lot of other people who have also lived their lives. Some of the memories are nice, and some aren’t, but they’re mine, and I kind of chafe at the thought of someone with whom I am only supposed to have a business relationship digging into my personal past (which has nothing to do with the work that I do).

I’ve even done a fair job of keeping my profile online pretty low key. If you google me, you’ll find my site, my blog, things about the magazine, Slashdot posts and a few random things that other people have posted. Thankfully, trying to figure out which ones are me is a little more difficult because there are two other fairly prominent people with the same name (though I seem to be more popular).

Heck, I even get email meant for one of them on occasion.

Even if you started digging into paper records, most of what you would find are mentions of me in my old hometown paper from when I was in school there. (I was involved in a lot of things while I was in grade school and high school, and ended up in the paper on occasion).

I just think this obsession a lot of companies seem to have with regard to the lives of their employees is unhealthy for everyone. The company is not your family, and you shouldn’t let them treat you like they are. Nor should you let them treat you like they own you, because the only person that owns you is you.

Current mood: contemplative
Current music: Angie Aparo - Cry

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Yeah Right

I got the new issue of ACM’s Queue magazine the other day. The interview this time was with Joel of Joel on Software fame.

There are some things that I agree with Joel on (by and large, I think he’s a self-important blowhard, but he does occasionally have some good ideas). I think that developers (programmers, software engineers, whatever-the-heck-you-want-to-call-us) should have offices with doors that close so we can get things done.

My friend and I agree that our ideal setup if we ever started a company would be private offices along with a lab environment so you could have quiet if you needed it, but if you felt disconnected and wanted to work around people for a while, you could just go to the lab. What can I say? We had a lot of fond memories of the Sun labs on campus (especially when it was just the few of us in the room that really knew what we were doing).

However, there was one thing in Joel’s interview that just makes me want to ask him what the heck he’s smoking. It’s not the first time he’s said the thing that makes me question his connections with reality either.

What is this thing, you ask?

That nobody is developing GUI desktop applications anymore and they are, effectively, dead.

That’s right. You heard me, Netcraft hasn’t confirmed it yet, but according to Joel, desktop software is dead.

Please allow me to call bullshit.

I realize that Joel thinks he’s the end all and be all of software company owners, but on this, the man doesn’t have a bloody clue. His main application, Fog Bugz, is browser based, so of course, he sees the software world as browser-centric.

However, the rest of us, minus some intranet applications that we may use at work (or the poor schmoes that use Google’s apps) are using stuff that is well and truly on our desktop.

For example, here is a quick rundown of the apps I’ve used today – Windows, Winamp, Firefox, Thunderbird, Word, Exact Audio Copy (I finally finished ripping my CD collection to the new drive), Visual Studio, File Zilla, and a few other things.

Want to know how many web apps that I’ve used in the last several months? The shopping carts for a couple of web stores, my bank (it sort of counts) and Blogger (if you want to count that since they have sort of tied it to their apps).

Hey Joel, want to know a secret? Web 2.0 is NOT going to take over application development. I remember when things were console based. What we have now is a VAST improvement.

Web 2.0 style stuff has its place. However, that place is pretty bloody narrow in scope.

Want to know something else that kills your prediction? Just what do you think your precious non-desktop-GUI apps run on? That’s right. They run on an operating system (which generally has a GUI desktop) and generally a web browser.

What are those two things? Could they be desktop GUI applications? I think so!

Want to know something else? Most of us (and most businesses) want to have control of our own freaking data. There are a number of reasons for that – among them, being able to control who has access to it and the fact that we don’t have to worry about not being able to get our data if our net access goes down.

Desktop apps aren’t going anywhere for a long long time, and, despite what you think, there are a LOT of people out there making them.

Current mood: amused
Current music: Rihanna – Shut up and Drive