Diecast #338: Midnight Mailbag

By Shamus Posted Monday Mar 29, 2021

Filed under: Diecast 65 comments



Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.
Diecast338


Link (YouTube)


00:00 A Late Show

I am happy this gives me an excuse to share this gem:


Link (YouTube)

01:44 Back to Factorio

I’m glad I came back. I’m really enjoying the game this time around.

08:35 Paul beat Satisfactory… again.

Fun fact: I have never beaten the game. In fact, in my most recent game, I cheated my way up to trains just so I could see what they were like. The pre-train grind ended many earlier playthroughs.

11:23 Terrible Car (Analogy)

It’s like when you want to make an analogy, but the engine is too expensive to fix so it doesn’t work.

34:15 Why are Youtube descriptions only 5k characters?

5k characters for a video description? Man, I’ll bet I’ve written footnotes longer than that.It’s actually not true that my footnotes are all that long. A lot of them are little two and three word jokes. Rather than say they’re LONG, it would be more accurate to say that they’re NUMEROUS. In my upcoming Mass Effect book, there are 262 footnotes. When compiled at the end of the book, they cover about 12 pages. This number might change before publication, but the overall trend is clear: I use lots of footnotes, most of which are clarifications, preemptive nitpick defenses, or jokes. This means they’re usually limited to a single sentence. In fact, I doubt the CSS on my site can handle excessively long footnotes. The display is driven by some barebones Javascript and it’s not very smart about where to little boxes need to go. On narrow displays, it’s common for footnotes to overflow off to the right. And that’s with normal-sized footnotes. If I did something irresponsible and tried to stuff a huge paragraph into one of those things, it would probably be an unreadable disaster. Still, the point stands that 5k characters is nothing and YouTube should raise that limit.

38:48 Mailbag: Factorio as an Interview Tool

Dear Diecast,

Any thoughts on this blog post laying out the case that Factorio is a good tool for testing potential coding talent?

https://erikmcclure.com/blog/factorio-is-best-interview-we-have/

Keep’em on the table,
Will

Warning: This turned into an unplanned rant on “trick” interview questions and the general misunderstanding of what programmers do and how to appraise their suitability for a job.

Sorry. I’ve had that rant pent up since 1996 or so, and I finally saw the chance to get it out.

54:30 Mailbag: Sideburns and beards.

Shamus and Friends,
Why do games with character creators almost
never line up sideburns and beards correctly? I have never met a person with a 2 inch gap between their sideburns and beard in real life (although I bet they exist)

Gautsu(Chris)

58:07 Mailbag: Starcraft

Dear Diecast,

I hope you’re doing well! I’ve got two questions for Shamus: you used to play StarCraft and StarCraft II. Which race was/is your favourite and why (5 bucks says Terran)? Also, do you still occasionally watch pro games?

Take Care and Keep Being Awesome,

Lino

 

Footnotes:

[1] It’s actually not true that my footnotes are all that long. A lot of them are little two and three word jokes. Rather than say they’re LONG, it would be more accurate to say that they’re NUMEROUS. In my upcoming Mass Effect book, there are 262 footnotes. When compiled at the end of the book, they cover about 12 pages. This number might change before publication, but the overall trend is clear: I use lots of footnotes, most of which are clarifications, preemptive nitpick defenses, or jokes. This means they’re usually limited to a single sentence. In fact, I doubt the CSS on my site can handle excessively long footnotes. The display is driven by some barebones Javascript and it’s not very smart about where to little boxes need to go. On narrow displays, it’s common for footnotes to overflow off to the right. And that’s with normal-sized footnotes. If I did something irresponsible and tried to stuff a huge paragraph into one of those things, it would probably be an unreadable disaster. Still, the point stands that 5k characters is nothing and YouTube should raise that limit.



From The Archives:
 

65 thoughts on “Diecast #338: Midnight Mailbag

  1. ivan says:

    R.E. the terrible car analogy bit: I got very depressed, and burnt out from my Engineering course I was doing, when they started teaching us how to design things to break. Just the concept, the horrible wastage involved in making things to deliberately break (usually right after warranty).

    Recycling is not a perfect process, people – each piece of scrap metal you recycle into something new becomes that bit worse as a material. Eventually we will run out of premium materials to make things out of, cos we keep using resources up faster than we need to – all we’ll have left to make things out of will be crappy, 5 times recycled steels.

    1. Chris says:

      That sounds disgusting. Planned obsolescence is really annoying. Especially when youre asking if it can be fixed and they ask 80 bucks to replace some plastic locking lug or whatever. I never knew they actually thought that in schools, and it was just part of the supervillain’s designer rooms.

    2. Henson says:

      My parents always told me about a local business that sold farming equipment, they made really high-quality machines. The tiller we bought from them over 30 years ago still works great. Turns out, they were too good: no one had to give them repeat sales. The company went out of business.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Ideally, our current market-based system would have some better incentives for people selling quality, lasting products. Unfortunately, we live in a world of microtransactions, shoddy products, etc. :E

      2. tmtvl says:

        I’ve been told a similar story about crocs (the shoes with holes in the top).

      3. pseudonym says:

        Miele, the washing machine factory, produced high quality machines that can run for more than 20 years. But they only target the premium market, so only produce a small volume and score high margins. Therfore they do not need a lot of repeat business and can rely on a steady stream of consumers. Unfortunately there is no telling if they are still this good. We only know in 20 years if their current washing machines are of the same quality of those 20 years ago.

    3. Olivier FAURE says:

      At least the “right to repair” concept is slowly making its way through the EU, but yeah, this is really awful.

    4. RFS-81 says:

      That would make me depressed, too.

    5. Addie says:

      We’re already pretty good at separating out the impurities from bauxite when we make iron; followed by adding too much carbon and then burning it off to get the grade of steel we want. If recycled metal gets contaminated by eg. a bit of stainless steel, making the resulting mixture brittle; well, it could fairly easily have been separated out with a magnet before it was melted, or by separating it out by fractionating while it’s molten. A waste of energy, of course; we need to get better at designing things to be recyclable as a species.

      And recycling aluminium just makes complete economic sense, since it’s so expensive to extract in the first place, and so cheap to melt and reuse, hundreds of times over.

      Designing things to break on purpose is obviously bad; but designing things to be light-weight can get a bad press. Designing a car which is built like a tank will cost a lot in energy to make that much metal, it will cost a lot in fuel to get it from A to B, it will have worse performance than a more lightweight vehicle, and it will be a complete liability in an accident since it has a lot more momentum. So designing a lightweight car that’s purposefully intended to last for fifteen (or so) years when maintained according to the schedule, safe in a crash, and which can be easily broken down and recycled afterwards would be a great achievement – there’s plenty of scrapheaps of terrible 80s cars to show how bad things used to be, and how far we’ve got to go to be better.

  2. Henson says:

    Any excuse to share a Mr. Show or Kids in the Hall sketch is a good excuse.

  3. bobbert says:

    Shamus, you really have to show us some of your beautiful factorio bases. :)

  4. Lino says:

    Thanks for answering my question! I lost my 5 bucks! Even more so, because my second guess was Protoss! In terms of pro games, I’m pretty much the same. But my favourite pro is Serral (very mainstream, I know).

    Also, that sketch was pure gold! But as I lay on the floor laughing, I thought to myself: if I were to show this to an 18-year-old, I really, really doubt they’ll get what the joke is. Here in Bulgaria these types of shows were quite popular when I was in Primary school. But for years now they’ve been relegated to the smallest and most obscure cable TV stations. Do you even have them in the US anymore? I don’t think I’ve seen them in any of the Western European countries I’ve been to either (although I’m definitely not familiar with any of the trends in their TV programmes)…

    1. Henson says:

      I don’t know if there are any more call-in shows on American TV anymore (since I don’t watch TV…), but I bet an 18-year-old would have a similar concept with the advent of YouTube and Twitch live streaming. Much like call-in TV shows, many channels follow a regular schedule and read comments from their audience made during the stream; some even do take ‘calls’.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Yeah, Twitch streams are the modern version of call-in shows. If it hasn’t happened yet, the types of shows that older demographics watch will adopt similar tools and procedures. :)

  5. GoStu says:

    Re: Interview Questions

    I despise the “clever trick” idea of interviews, and if I ever find the first person/people to start spreading that rumour about the interviewer turning down the person due to salting their food, I’ll slap them into the 31st century. One might as well take a prospective employee’s horoscope or read tea leaves or chuck some I Ching sticks around. One can spin the salt thing into anything they want it to mean – maybe the person’s eaten there before and remembers, maybe the person just likes their food salty, maybe they’re testing the interviewer back and looking for the inevitable flinch.

    The entire job application/interviewing/hiring process feels broken as hell from start to finish. In my opinion it’s probably because it’s an expensive process that nobody involved really wants to be doing. Applicants don’t usually want to be on the hunt and managers generally want to do their jobs instead of perusing resumés. HR doesn’t know a good candidate from a bad one, and I’m sure the internet-based application system these days generates more chaff than wheat and you end up trawling through a hundred useless resumés to find a decent one.

    [I may have some accumulated grievances with the whole thing of late.]

    1. Thomas says:

      I just think, unless the job has very technical requirements, it’s impossible to accurately test the quality of an employee without observing them at work.

      The current system almost wholly consists of the applicant self-providing information that the employer has no good way of checking, in set formats designed to process a lot of applicants moderately quickly.

      That’s almost always going to end up favouring people who bend the truth and are good at working in those formats rather than people who are good at the job.

      It’s a human conceit to think we can judge someone’s character in 30 minutes of conversation, and it’s nonsense. In reality even close friends can turn out to have sides of their personality you’d never have suspected them of having in many years of knowing them. You may only discover that when you see them in unfamiliar situations or under unusual pressures.

      1. ivan says:

        Ya. Bit morbid, but I find out the most about people I’ve known all my life, when I’m at their funerals.

      2. Chris says:

        There is no real way to test people quickly. So if you get 100 resumes your only option is to make up some random parameters to help filter out the bulk of them. Things like typos, not liking a person for whatever reason, not liking a picture they put on their resume, them writing out fizzbuzz, seeing them drink a beer on a facebook picture you found of them, while nothing significant its the only real thing you can find to filter out people so you have to do less interviews.

        Sure, you throw out some wheat with the chaff, but as long as you still have wheat left at the end of the process its okay.

        1. Thomas says:

          Malcolm Gladwell, the journalist/writer, just hires essentially the first okay person he sees and then lets them go if it doesn’t work. He doesn’t even believe the time spent sorting applicants is worth it.

        2. Amita says:

          First thing to do is throw away half of the applications unseen so you don’t hire any unlucky people. /s

    2. Lino says:

      What are you talking about?! Salting their food OBVIOUSLY means they’re smart and have an immaculate ability to assess situations. It shows that they can evaluate complex problems in a short amount of time, that they are driven in their life, and have a robust set of values that they follow! In short – the perfect employee for any organisation!

      Unless they’re a Pisces, of course, in which case you should immediately terminate the interview. Everyone knows Pisces are lazy and easily distracted….

      1. Philadelphus says:

        Salt, eh. Now if they put ketchup on their food, then you can be sure they are an upstanding individual of no mean discernment.

    3. bobbert says:

      The “You salted your food without checking to see if it needed it!” is from admiral Rickover, father of the US Navy’s nuclear power program. Known for being a hard-driving task master bordering on cruel and also for sparkling safety record.

      1. Geebs says:

        It’s pretty pragmatic, really. If I’ve done the cooking and somebody throws a bunch of condiment on before they taste it, it does make me irrationally furious. The Navy probably lost entire submarines to the ensuing bloodbath before this rule was put in place.

        1. Syal says:

          Navy ships don’t even stock butter anymore, so grave was the threat.

    4. RFS-81 says:

      One might as well take a prospective employee’s horoscope

      Uh yeah, about that…

      When I was interviewed for my current job, they had a pretty good test. We care a lot about code review, so the test was:

      Here’s a C++ code sample.

      1) What does it want to do?
      2) What does it actually do?

      (Related: Why oh why are signed chars the default???)

      1. Daimbert says:

        I like it, and not just because of code review. It’s also a good test to see how well someone can figure out bugs in the code, but most importantly how they can understand code and what it is doing and wants to do which is important for anyone coming into an existing code base. You could even do something where you give someone a requirement and ask them what approach/design/set of code would be the best one to use to achieve it. In my job, at least, at the senior level actually writing code isn’t all that big a deal — if you’ve been around for that long you are almost certain to be able to at least look up what code you need and assemble it into some useful form — so the “Write code to do this simple yet potentially slightly tricky thing” isn’t that useful, but being able to figure out existing code that you’ve never seen before and come up with designs from a requirement is far more important.

    5. Joshua says:

      In my opinion it’s probably because it’s an expensive process that nobody involved really wants to be doing. Applicants don’t usually want to be on the hunt and managers generally want to do their jobs instead of perusing resumés.

      Last October, I started a new job as a manager. Less than a month later, BOTH of my two employees had given their notice (apparently they had been looking for a new job along with my predecessor). One of the last things I wanted to do while was go through resumes and conduct interviews when I’m still trying to learn the basics of my own job and make sure things are getting done before both of my employees leave.

      I also believe it’s true that while interviews might help you weed out really bad candidates, it’s really hard to find someone who might be secretly bad (or at least not as great as they seemed) as well.

      1. Joshua says:

        really *not* hard.

  6. Ninety-Three says:

    For those who watch pro Starcraft, game 1 of this recent match made my all-time list, excellent bio vs mech play.

    1. Lino says:

      Amazing game! Thanks for sharing! Now excuse me while I go binge some pro games for the whole afternoon. And just when I thought I’d gotten over it….

  7. Pax says:

    Aw, on reading about the beard question, I was hoping for a good old Shamus rant about something that also bothers me a lot. For the record, what they’re talking about isn’t a gap between the beard and the sideburns, it’s between those two things and the hairline. I think Paul is still probably right about it being two parts or texture maps of the head that don’t necessarily align, though.

    1. Gautsu says:

      Thank you for putting my pet peeve into better words. I expect it’s the texture map thing but my question is who look at that in a finished product and says that passes muster. Bioware, Bethesda, CDPR, are all equally guilty of this. Probably the best example of the opposite of this was Ni-Oh 2: they have smaller pieces that they allow you to layer together to create a beard/sideburns combo that runs straight into the hairline

  8. Echo Tango says:

    Re: Conspiracies to shorten life-spans
    Big Clive did a video showing LED bulbs (only available in Dubai) that were designed to actually last to the lifespan of the LEDs inside of them. Apparently most LED bulbs don’t keep them within the temperature tolerances the LEDs are rated to, so they all die fairly quickly compared to the huge lifespan they could have. :|

  9. Echo Tango says:

    So, YouTube actually has a dedicated “transcript” feature, so you normally wouldn’t need to put it into the video description. I’m assuming the descriptions limit is to try and limit spam, maybe? It definitely seems like a place to easily have paragraphs of conspiracy theories and links to enhancement pills. /shrug

  10. Moridin says:

    “Linus Torvalds is known for being an asshole”

    To be fair, when it comes to the Linux kernel, Torvalds is not actually acting as an engineer any more(and hasn’t for a long time). His job isn’t to come up with/implement solutions, his job is to take the patches made by other people, look at them, possibly try compiling the kernel with them, then if/when there’s a problem, come back to the person who submitted the patch and tell them: “We’re not going to include your code because it doesn’t conform to the style guide/doesn’t work/causes problems x, y and z. Come back when you’ve fixed it.” (Of course there’s a lot more to it, but on the whole his role is more manager and less engineer.) And the people who make the patches are working for other companies(and, in fact, may be doing this on their spare time) so if someone is doing a bad job, he doesn’t have a lot of tools to work with. I don’t know that you could expect a nice person to do a very good job in that position.

    Plus, you know, he’s Finnish. We tend to be somewhat blunt compared to you Americans just as a baseline.

    Re: Starcraft II: If you think Scarlet is insane, just wait until what you see Reynor and Serral… To be honest, I prefer watching WinterStarcraft and PiG over the official casts.

    1. Crokus Younghand says:

      I don’t know that you could expect a nice person to do a very good job in that position.

      Nice people do a good job in that position all the time, that’s why they never make the news. This is why assholes are a problem – they normalise the assholery for other assholes, and slowly nice people leave due to the increasing toxicity.

    2. tmtvl says:

      Linus has also improved by leaps and bounds on the harsh language front.

      I mean he’s still quite blunt, but not quite as much as he used to be.

    3. RFS-81 says:

      I like this blogpost on the subject. It talks about three different communication styles: modern corporate, “we’re all engineers here” style, and insults. Some people conflate the latter two and paint insults as the only alternative to corporate speak.

  11. Crokus Younghand says:

    Regarding 5000 character limit, it might be to make sure that the page will load quickly enough. But then again, their logo is probably more than 5 KB in size, so who knows?

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      Nah, it’s really not a concern. They don’t even display the full text at page load (most of it is hidden behind the “see more” button). And text is really cheap.

      If I had to guess, I’d say it’s to avoid excessive SEO.

  12. Lino says:

    The only reason for the 5000 character limit I can think of is to avoid keyword stuffing. But even that’s a weird reason – Google’s been on top of that stuff for years now. Also, I don’t think the video description is a very strong factor for the algorithm.

  13. Olivier FAURE says:

    FizzBuzz isn’t a great exercise to detect geniuses, but if you’re looking to fill an entry-level position, it’s pretty good at filtering out people who’ve never programmed in their life and hope to bluff their way in (there’s a surprising number of those). If the candidate can’t do a fizzbuzz, you can end the interview right there.

    Of course people can learn the algorithm ahead of time, so you need follow-up questions and harder exercises (or better yet, start with an exercise that’s as simple as fizzbuzz but isn’t as widely known); but it’s a good first filter.

    1. tmtvl says:

      Reminds me of the guy who had some fun with it by doing fizzbuzz with machine learning.

      I like using it to show how loop unrolling works.

      So instead of doing something like

      (let fizzbuzz ((i 0))
      ..(print
      ….(cond
      ……((= (remainder i 15) 0) “fizzbuzz”)
      ……((= (remainder i 3) 0) “fizz”)
      ……((= (remainder i 5) 0) “buzz”)
      ……(else i)))
      ..(when (< i 100) (fizzbuzz (+ i 1))))

      We get rid of most comparisons by doing

      (let fizzbuzz ((i 0))
      ..(print (+ i 1))
      ..(print (+ i 2))
      ..(print "fizz")
      […]
      ..(print (+ i 14))
      ..(print "fizzbuzz")
      ..(when (< i 90) (fizzbuzz (+ i 15))))

      And do the last 10 outside of the loop.

  14. Paul Spooner says:

    Here’s the video of how my base looks at the point that I beat Satisfactory Update 4
    https://youtu.be/IEQmxkdLOB8

  15. Retsam says:

    Technical interviews are hard and contentious and always have been and always will be. There’s approximately 3 million blogposts, often contradictory of why X is the worst way to interview and they do usually have valid points.

    For one, is it’s the sort of process that either produces false negatives or false positives – either you hire someone who isn’t qualified for the job, or you reject someone who was qualified. Or both – a terrible interview process will produce false negatives and false positives at random, but a good one will still almost certainly be biased on way or another.

    From the applicant perspective, of course, false negatives are bad the worst: you get rejected when you were qualified to do the job. And this leads to outrage headlines like creator of homebrew rejected from Google application.

    But the company *desperately* wants to avoid false positives. Hiring someone under-qualified for the job is awful – they don’t produce a small amount of value, they don’t even produce zero value, they usually produce negative value – as they take up time of the more productive team members and often produce mistakes that need to be fixed by more productive teammates – and this is assuming that the team isn’t given additional work proportional to its “increased size”.

    And this last point, it’s not just the bean counters who want to avoid bad hires – it’s actually the team itself that feels the pain more acutely. So, every developer wants “looser hiring practices” when they’re job searching, but doesn’t actually want loose hiring practices when searching for a teammate. It’s kind of a NIMBY situation.

    And getting into specific interview approaches, there’s downsides to all of them.

    Do you go with the classic “whiteboard” problem, where they write a high-level description of the code rather than real code? This is gating a technical job behind a public speaking test and going to rule out very competent developers who just don’t do good in high stress situations. (Also handwriting!) And also it can tend to use toy problems that aren’t realistic. (e.g. Shamus’s linked list example)

    Maybe you avoid that and have them write real code. This introduces some logistic issues: (who brings the machine, how is it setup?). This still ends up looking a lot like a public speaking test, and sometimes a “can you program without consulting external resources test”, and still usually involves solving toy problems.

    Having them modify existing code? Good, but requires a lot of work to setup a good test codebase. Depending on how it’s done this can still be “write new toy code, with extra steps” or “can you identify these common anti-patterns on sight” if you do more of a code-review style. And reading code is time-consuming. You don’t really want to just have the interviewer sitting there while the candidate silently reads code for 30 minutes.

    “Aha!”, you say, if time is an issue, why not give them the work ahead of time? Well, yes, take-home interviews are common but now you’re putting more work on the interviewee, sometimes before they’ve even made it into your “final” interview, and and you’re biasing against people who simply don’t have time for that. (This is going to benefit single 20-somethings at the expense of, say parents)

    Factorio? Maybe the game is a great abstraction for the concepts of programming… but it’s way too abstract, and “I got rejected from X company, because I’m not a gamer” is a PR shitstorm waiting to happen. Whether or not you believe programming is too young white male dominated is already a huge point of contention (and please, let’s not debate that), and that’s going to throw napalm on that fire. (In defense of the blog, they’re not actually suggesting using it…)

    The general trend is that “truer” interviews are more complicated to set up and take more time on both the interviewer and interviewee, while the more “approximate” approaches are easier, quicker, but might be testing the wrong thing.
    IMO, the only perfect interview process is called an “internship” and the only downside is it that it takes about three months.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      As someone who’s interviewed software developers, the way you’ve described whiteboarding sounds like the interviewers don’t know how to effectively evaluate the applicant. Every interview I’ve participated in or conducted I’ve gone out of my way, to explain that I don’t care about how eloquent someone is in their speaking, or if their whiteboarding is messy, etc. It’s meant to see how they would break down a problem, iterate on a solution, explain what they’re doing – none of that implies giving perfect answers. Like, you sometimes need to use a whiteboard while on the job, but approximately zero percent of the time are we writing computer code without the ability to research things on the internet, a compiler to give errors or warning, etc.

      1. Retsam says:

        I’m speaking as a software developer whose interviewed other software developers, sometimes with whiteboards. And, yeah, I know the idea is just to see how they break down the problem, but if I can’t read anything they’re writing on the whiteboard (and, yes, I’ve had that happen), that’s going to make it hard to assess.

        And more to the point, a lot of people just don’t do good in that sort of situation. A lot of people who could break down a problem in normal circumstances just can’t in a whiteboard interview, for the same reason that many people who can have no trouble speaking in normal situations suddenly start tripping over their words when you put them in front of other people and ask them to give a speech.

      2. tmtvl says:

        There’s this saying that goes “first solve the problem, then write the code.” I think that’s why whiteboard problems are useful in interviews.
        All of us can just type “how to balance a binary tree” in Google and copy an answer from SO, but people who can’t reason their way through it on a whiteboard may have a hard time thinking through a more difficult problem.

    2. Geebs says:

      Surely, the only question that matters is “tabs or spaces?”

      1. Retsam says:

        Come on, you’re a regular here, you know Shamus doesn’t allow religious debates in the comment sections.

    3. Joshua says:

      “Aha!”, you say, if time is an issue, why not give them the work ahead of time? Well, yes, take-home interviews are common but now you’re putting more work on the interviewee, sometimes before they’ve even made it into your “final” interview, and and you’re biasing against people who simply don’t have time for that. (This is going to benefit single 20-somethings at the expense of, say parents)

      Or even just potentially losing good candidates who don’t think the effort is worth a chance at a job of unknown quality. If they’re applying at Google or some world-famous company because they want to work for them in particular as opposed to just responding to an Indeed listing, have at it. However, if some job posting requires me to go through a lot of hoops before I’m even in the running, it doesn’t seem like the best use of my time.

      About six months ago I received an email back from a CEO about an accounting position, saying that he had received over 100 applicants and as a test sent out a large number of entries (~12,000 rows on an Excel sheet) for the past year and wanted them compiled into proper financials along with recommendations and concerns about any troubling trends noticed. Also, this task “shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours or so”. Even at a couple of hours, that’s quite a bit of commitment of energy and brain cells to compete against up to 100 other people unless you just like the mental challenge. Now, if we were talking about the final round of candidates, that would be a different story.

    4. Supah Ewok says:

      Why not just ask them for an interesting problem they’ve encountered in their past, and how they solved it?

      The idea of the coding test has always been a bit mystifying to me. I don’t really know any other profession that has demanded a display of skill as a ritual in the interview process. Of course, I haven’t applied in all that many fields, but I’ve never heard of engineers having to design a bridge at an interview, never heard of a surveyor be told to bust out the instrument and measure a property line, never heard of a fast food restaurant demanding you grill a burger, never heard of a lawyer needing to conduct a mock trial, never heard of an accountant needing to organize a ledger.

      It seems quixotic on the part of programmers.

      1. Retsam says:

        There are absolutely other skills-based professions that require a display of skill.

        You mention grilling burgers, but I’m pretty sure non-entry level chef jobs do regularly involve an actual demonstration of cooking ability. If I’m applying to be in a music group, of course I’m going to be asked to play music. An actor is going to be asked to act as part of an audition.

        Of the professions that don’t, many rely on standardized testing as the “practical display of skill” – a lawyer doesn’t conduct a mock trial because they have Bar Exam scores for that. (Also because it’d be hilariously impractical) Whether or not software could have a well-respected set of standardized exams that could replace interview tests is an interesting question, but in any case it doesn’t.

        And a good number of professions, while they’re “skill-based” are more “soft skill”-based anyway. Like it makes sense that an interview for a sales position is going to mostly be talking, because that’s mostly what the job is, too.

        Are there professions not in one of these categories, and that still rely on “soft” interviewing like references, and open-ended questions about their past accomplishments? Maybe. But if they do, I suspect it’s only because they don’t have better options. Some professions may require skills that are basically impossible to demonstrate in a short interview. But that doesn’t mean it’s the better option, or that they wouldn’t use “practical” testing if they could.

        And of course, some level of “soft skills” is still important for a “hard skills” job like programming (in fact, I think it’s drastically undervalued), and it is part of the interview process, but an interview process based entirely on “soft skills” is not going to produce optimal results. (And introduces a whole lot of bias in favor of factors that are largely tertiary to ability to get the job done)

      2. Nimrandir says:

        For what it’s worth, every interview I’ve ever done in higher education has included a teaching demonstration. Heck, in one of them, I basically taught one day of a couple of the school’s pre-calculus and statistics classes.

        While the teaching demonstration might not be a massive part of interviews for a research-oriented position, I’m certain candidates will be expected to present their work as part of the process. This could be argued as another public-speaking test, but in reality, presenting your research at conferences is a big part of your job as a scholar.

  16. Randint says:

    Shamus, you know how you sometimes put entire articles on the front page?

    I think I just found a similar mistake – it looks like you accidentally put an entire article in one of your footnotes.

  17. Grimwear says:

    I’ve currently been on an Age of Empires 2 kick. Watching TheViper videos who I guess is one of the top AOE2 players of all time. The biggest downside is that the start of the games can be pretty slow but it’s wild watching all the changes and reactions that happen over the course of a game. It’s also nice that he sometimes just messes around and can still consistently win.

    I did also find some fun games from T90Official where you can find some fun modded games like Exploding Villagers. Seeing the unique way people can use these mods to win games is honestly refreshing and amazing to watch.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      T-90’s Low Elo Legends series is absolutely hilarious—he casts games by very low skill people and turns them into epic battles with him and his Twitch audience seriously invested in all the back-and-forth. (And not in a mean-spirited way, either, while he’ll point out mistakes made it’s always in a “here’s how this could be improved” way recognizing that we were all at that skill level once.) You can get some really wacky, wild, and out-of-the-box ideas from players that would never fly at higher-skill-level game, so it’s always good for a laugh.

  18. Chad+Miller says:

    Re: the YouTube limit – I remember when they first integrated Google+ into it and comments had no character limit at all. This led to my favorite trolling pattern of all time: the long, on-topic comment that was just long enough to need a “Read More” link at the end, followed by the full text of a public domain novel. People clicking on the comment would expand it and find the page layout completely ruined.

  19. tmtvl says:

    For those who prefer only listening and usually don’t watch: Paul did put a picture of his beard in the video, definitely worth taking a look.

  20. Steve C says:

    Roughly 20 years ago I saw a car lose its driveshaft. It was on the expressway in fairly heavy traffic going in the opposite direction. Launched the sedan completely into the air. The driver side window was level with the cab of trucks while the rest of the car was ass up ~55 degrees into the air. Quite the sight. I think it got launched like that because it was going down a hill. I was just glad I wasn’t in the major traffic jam it must have caused.

  21. evilmrhenry says:

    I looked up stainless steel for car bodies, and it appears to have some downsides:
    It’s difficult to wield and paint, it’s more expensive and heavier, and modern anti-corrosion techniques are actually okay except in really nasty salt-water.

    The DeLorean appears to have stainless steel only as a thin outer layer.

  22. Rick says:

    The interview process for one of my previous jobs had a psyche test that took longer than the code test.

    After being hired I immediately saw the flaw in having such an easy code test.

  23. tmtvl says:

    Also, when it comes to motorcycles and cars, I am a fan of Colonel Detlef’s Omnibike.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Ooh! I’d congratulate you on the deep cut, but that take can’t possibly have cooled even to room temperature!

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