A mixed bag of linksPosted: January 8, 2014
It takes something for an article about HR policies to be interesting, but that’s what this article about Netflix’s HR policy is. Very interesting. Over the years I’ve heard pretty much all the cliches that are generally foisted onto employees by management teams. The one that has always provoked mirth, occasionally despair, across the workforce is the one that claims to pay market rate, “we want the best people, so we pay the best wages”. I’ve worked for market leading companies, and companies circling the drain. In both types of company we knew that some people were paid market rate, and we knew that some people weren’t. I even know that one colleague of mine, when presenting the new job offer he had received, which was about 30-40% larger than his current salary, to his employer, was told that they didn’t believe that his new salary offer was an accurate representation of his market rate! No word of a lie. Anyway. Netflix. There is much in here that is innovative and brave, and logical, although in some respects it could be seen as slightly brutal also, but only slightly. There is a lot of detail and substantiation that is worth reading but there are highlights. First the observation that the best thing you can do to keep employees happy is to only hire the best co-workers, which necessitates what can often be a fairly emotionless approach to letting people go. And secondly, that when you do let people go, they get a generous severance package. Quite brilliant really although clearly not for everyone.
This link is another example of an exceptional use of digital media by a modern news organisation. There aren’t that many of these things around and I try to highlight them when I find them. By and large this kind of approach, it’s more investigative journalism than ‘news at 9’ , isn’t that commonplace. I suspect that the economics are somewhat challenging but hope that we are starting to see these new approaches getting some grip. Regardless this is a really good deep dive into the phenomena of mass killings in America since 2006. Its not a wall of text, but instead a mixture of data, story telling, graphics and intuitive use of browser mechanics. The topic at hand is grim, but the journalism impressive.
I wrote a short post about a week ago, which at its heart claimed that in general, business did not use the internet to see what real people were doing, and what real people wanted, as expressed by those people in natural and non prompted environments. I was mostly writing from the angle of the communications and marketing industry (I have always hated focus groups even though they do have their uses) but was aware that it applied to different business spheres also. This article is about the Amazon whisperers, a New Jersey company that scours Amazon reviews, and other web locations, to find products that are missing certain features. They know they are missing those features because the reviews say so. The next step is to commission a company, often in China, to make the product, but fully replete with the features that are wanted. Obvious, yes once you hear about it, clever, yes for sure, but commonplace, no.
Something that has been missing from the regular coverage of the agreement between America and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program and the US sanctions is the wider effect this deal has had on other regional players. It is widely reported, of course, that Israel is very unhappy as their position on Iran and nuclear proliferation has been a driving force behind much of American policy in the region for many years now. Just as formative, but much less reported is the role played by Saudi Arabia, both in terms of their relationship to America, and also their fear of Iran’s nuclear program. This article explores those issues, starting with the somewhat bleak assertion that the US/Iran deal may lead to the nuclearisation of the Saudis. I don’t buy that as an inevitable conclusion but its a good place to start.
This next piece is quite long, but again worth a read. it’s yet another take on privacy and the NSA, this time from the hacker/maker community. It’s a good examination, whether you are in agreement or not. I particularly like the observations about misrepresentation as a path to privacy. Its a job that requires some technical sophistication and dedication so I can’t see it being a widespread approach, but interesting nonetheless. This passage in particular stood out for me.
If data kills both privacy as impossible-to-observe and privacy as impossible-to-identify, then what might be an alternative? If you are an optimist or an apparatchik, then your answer will tend toward rules of procedure administered by a government you trust or control. If you are a pessimist or a hacker/maker, then your answer will tend towards the operational, and your definition of a state of privacy will be mine: the effective capacity to misrepresent yourself.