Friday, May 18, 2012 Klout?

Today I told a recruiter that I didn't want to relocate to a certain metro area for the job he was peddling, and he demanded to know why. Uh...?

But that's not what I want to talk about. Yesterday and today I was involved in a spirited discussion about a fairly new (3 years old) social media platform called Klout. Klout, which purports to measure your "influence" in social media, has been getting a lot of attention recently, mostly due to an article in the current paper edition of Wired.

Like any fairly new meme, Klout is on the receiving end of a lot of bashing, mostly from "old guard" IT wags who term it invasive, meaningless, part of the social media "popularity contest", and so on. Even xkcd's Randall Munroe had something negative to say about it. And I say they're missing the point.

In the last decade, Social Media, as a concept, has become entrenched in First World culture. People who, ten years ago, used the Internet rarely or not at all, use it frequently now because of Social Media and its influence. But a lot of people who, like me, predate their interaction with computer technology to before Social Media (or even the Internet) existed, have a very "get off my lawn" reaction to a lot of Social Media platforms. Having existed before it, and having not thought it up themselves, they think they're above it. (A good counterexample to this type of thinking is Marc Andreessen, who is also featured in this month's Wired.)

I don't love all of it, myself. For instance, although I have an account on Facebook, I have never liked the site and rarely read posts there (I seem to post a lot, but most of it is auto-posted from other sites). I wasn't an early adopter of Klout; I knew it existed but I wanted to see where it would go before jumping on the bandwagon. Wired's article told me what I wanted to know and I jumped in, thereby raising my "score" - which already existed since I tweet publicly - from 22 to 49 (out of 100) in two days.

Does it mean anything? Is it just all a big popularity contest? Of course it is. Go look up who has a score of 100 and you'll see that that's the case. But that is the point. The "Net" - which started out as a government defense research project - has become a world-wide party and the popular kids - who in many cases are also technological and artistic innovators - have taken over. You don't have to play if you don't want to. Your priorities may lie elsewhere, and there's nothing wrong with that. But because a technological innovation doesn't fit your worldview is no reason to disparage it. It didn't work for Jacquard's detractors either, a fact for which modern IT curmudgeons should be grateful.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

the importance of being anonymous...?

I haven't posted here in a while. I've never been more than kind of intermittent, but currently I have a good reason; I'm writing weekly articles for Crain's Cleveland Business. They're a little non-technical (basic security for businesspeople), so the content is probably not what I'd choose to share here anyway, but with 500-1000 words per week going there, I'm not as motivated to post here.

That said...last night, I went to our local chapter ISSA meeting last night. They weren't charging admission to the meeting, so it was basically free CPEs (and free pizza). I was a little late for the meeting due to mixing it up with another meeting I have next week, so I was a bit flustered as I entered the venue.

As I approached the room where the meeting was being held, I saw a sign on the wall about the meeting saying to text to a certain phone number for a door prize. I had my phone in my hand anyway, so I paused and sent the SMS, then proceeded into the meeting.

Realizing I was late, I quickly sat down. The lecturer, Branson Matheson, was talking about social engineering, which is a subject that's very interesting to me. During the lecture he mentioned the "hack" he'd perpetrated and wondered aloud how many phone numbers he'd captured that way.

Yup, okay, he got me. Turned out, too, that I was the only person in the room who fell for it, although that fact is mitigated to some extent by the fact that not everybody in the room actually saw the sign. But really...did he in fact "get me"? What exactly happened here?

It's no secret, I'm looking for a job. Because of this, I give people my contact details several times a day. I WANT people to have my phone number. In fact, had I arrived at the meeting early, as I'd intended to do, I would have been passing out my virtual business card (via Cardcloud) to anybody who would take it. People very often do, in fact, exchange business cards at such meetings, which will usually include a mobile number among others. So, practically speaking, Mr. Matheson didn't actually gain any knowledge that I wasn't willing for him to have, and in fact, he didn't have a name attached to that number. 

Mr. Matheson's point was that there's nothing stopping a hacker from putting up signs randomly saying "text to [phone number] for free offers" and actually collecting phone numbers that way, and it's a very good point. I was fairly sure, when I sent my text, that I was sending it to an officer of the local board (and he is, in fact, the VP of the local chapter), so while I "fell for" his trick, I'm actually just as happy that he has my phone number. Maybe he'll refer me to a new job. ;)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

interview questions

So over here  you can find the "top 25 oddball interview questions of 2011". Supposedly these questions were really asked in job interviews.

So I figure, what the hell, I'm currently here's MY take on THEIR take on these wacky questions. I'll split them up into a few entries.

1. “How many people are using Facebook in San Francisco at 2:30pm on a Friday?” Asked at Google

This is one of those questions that there's not going to be a simple, correct answer for. Given that, it seems to me obvious that the object of the question is to ascertain your problem-solving skills. In other words, how would you find out the answer?

It may or may not help to know that the population of The City is roughly 800,000. However, you have to consider that anywhere from a quarter to a third of these people do not use Facebook at all (at a guess). However, people who do not actually live in San Francisco proper are commuting into it to work, and most of these people probably do use Facebook. Ergo, it's not out of the question to just assume that there are around 800K people in town on a weekday who could be using Facebook.

Further, you have to consider the time, i.e. "siesta time" on a Friday. 2:30 is a little too early to skip out for the weekend (unless Monday's a holiday, in which case, why did you even come in?), but it's a great time to check in with your friends. Therefore, I'd say that for any given non-long-weekend Friday, there could be a whole 800K people using Facebook within the San Francisco City Limits.

However, that's just a very rough guess, so I would suggest that if the interviewer really needed to know the answer, searching his network logs (or using a SIEM to search) would tell him how many people on his network, out of the total number of employees, were using Facebook at that time. From that one could extrapolate what percentage of the rest of all white-collar workers were using it, which could further lead to extrapolation for the rest of the population. Don't forget to include pretty much any student with a smartphone.

2. “Just entertain me for five minutes, I’m not going to talk.” Asked at Acosta.

My consulting rate is $250 an hour, with an hour minimum billed. If you want entertainment, you're going to have to pay for it, and I would prefer that up front, please. Next question.

3. “If Germans were the tallest people in the world, how would you prove it?” Asked at Hewlett-Packard

Prove what? Oh, that they are the tallest people in the world? First of all, measure the height of about 100 German people. Next, measure 100 people (or, if 100 people aren't available, as many as possible) from every other country and culture in the world. Tabulate the results. By the way, Germans aren't the tallest people in the world.

4. “What do you think of garden gnomes?” Asked at Trader Joe’s

I prefer flower fairies. Gnomes don't really do anything for me.

5. “Is your college GPA reflective of your potential?” Asked at the Advisory Board. 

God no. I wasn't really ready for college, mostly because I went to a public high school and it was way too easy for me. I got away with murder. In college, I actually had to work, and my GPA ended up not being very good. I learned from that experience, though -- and I've never stopped learning since.

6. “Would Mahatma Gandhi have made a good software engineer?” Asked at Deloitte. 

Gandhi was a lawyer, and a good one, before he decided to effect India's liberation. He was intelligent, innovative, and daring, all of which are good traits for an engineer. He didn't live simply because he was some kind of Luddite; he was doing it to show solidarity with the poor. This shows that he was adaptable and disciplined. Yeah, I'd hire

7. “If you could be #1 employee but have all your coworkers dislike you or you could be #15 employee and have all your coworkers like you, which would you choose?” Asked at ADP. 

This isn't high school. If I am the #1 employee, and I got there because of my talent, hard work, and willingness to be a team player, then my co-workers will respect me, and that's what is important. Are you really asking me this?

8. “How would you cure world hunger?” Asked at

First I would find every single corrupt person in the world and shoot him. Then...oops.

Seriously, there is no way to end world hunger. It's not that we -- as a species -- don't have the resources to do so. If it were as simple as just growing enough food to feed every single person on this planet, we could do that. But you can't just grow food. You have to distribute that food. You have to pay the people who are growing it, and the people who are distributing it. That's where the problem lies: the food isn't being paid for or distributed, and the reason is that people in power are keeping that from happening so as to control the people who need the food.

I guess if I wanted to end world hunger, I would force everyone into a cooperative hive mind. But while we're all individuals, there really isn't any way, in my opinion, because the more individuals you have, the less cooperation you can achieve.

9. “Room, desk and car – which do you clean first?” Asked at Pinkberry.

Whichever one needs it the most, balanced by how much I need that thing to be clean. If I'm not using my car for a given period of time, I'm not going to care if it's clean, for instance.

More in another blog post...this is kind of fun!