Archive for June, 2011

Living Untethered

by Gordon. 2 Comments

For roughly two and a half months I have been without a mobile phone of any kind. Two months might not sound like much, but this is coming from a software developer who is entrenched in technology and has even built multiple Android and iOS apps. Before this, I always carried a phone and was in a constant state of sync. The event which prompted this experiment was the loss of my Nexus One during a trip to Las Vegas–the exact details of which aren’t important, but suffice it to say the trip was a success.

My hope throughout this was that I might be able to come to some insight or achieve a revelation about the significance of always being connected. Perhaps by depriving myself of something I had grown to take for granted, having a powerful computer in my pocket, could inspire me as a (mobile) developer. Unfortunately, the best I could come up with is this: having a phone doesn’t really fucking matter. For people who work in front of computers, in this day and age, your phone is a luxury device, and not having one is no big deal.

Sure, I definitely did miss out on a few candid photos of my friends, some of my amazing lunches went undocumented, and I definitely could have benefited from Google Maps from time to time, but fundamentally nothing about my life changed for the better or for the worse. I am still wired to a computer majority of the day, my brain is still synced to my GMail inbox, and aside from short periods of commute, the internet is still readily accessible if needed.

I was also hoping that I could write about how not having a phone could reduce stress. The physical constraint of not being able to check your email several hours a day does relax your attitude, but I still felt no perceptible difference in my stress level. Instead, for the rest of this post I will share some random tidbits I gained from this experience:

Google Voice is the Shit

For $0.00 dollars a month I have the same mobile phone number I had before as well as unlimited calls and domestic texts. This is all done through Google Voice after porting my phone number. From the perspective of all of my contacts, I still have a phone and nothing has changed. Of course, I need access to a computer to return calls, but this is not a problem for me, especially with a MacBook Air slung over my shoulder for most of the day. It really is only a matter of time before mobile VOIP clients usurp voice and text plans entirely.

Moreover, using Google Voice for calls and texts is actually a lot better than the traditional phone counterparts. Voicemail transcription definitely helped screen recruiters. I am also doing myself a favor by typing out texts in an instant message-like interface rather than constantly using a touch keyboard. In retrospect, it is actually slightly amusing to think of myself responding to texts on my phone while sitting in front of a full keyboard, as I often did. The same goes for email. Even if you have a phone, it is worthwhile to go through the cumbersome porting process, effectively making your phone and computer interchangeable.

Touch Interfaces Are Sexy and Easily Forgotten

While not having a phone, there wasn’t a single app that I longed to use over it’s desktop equivalent. Desktop apps aren’t quite as sexy, but they definitely work. I might be singing a different tune if I were really into the mobile gaming scene or consuming certain types of content as thats where I feel most of the innovation is taking place (even though Angry Birds is now in the browser).

Phones and computers are converging, and phones are starting to feel like shitty computers. (Although, I really hope I eat these words when NFC becomes prevalent). This is especially apparent when my Macbook Air is sitting next to my iPad 2 on my coffee table. It is only slightly larger, an order of magnitude more useful, and usually the first to be picked up when someone wants to browse the web. That said, just to be clear, I still do believe that a properly done native iOS or Android app focused on consuming content can still rival anything out there and can appeal to a wide(r) audience.

I Just Bought a Phone

I’m sure I slipped throughout this post and referred to my not having a phone in past tense. That is because yesterday I finally bought myself a replacement phone, an HTC Sensation, not because I needed it, but because I wanted it. I’m looking forward to being able to tether my air again.

Retroactively Open-Sourced Project #1: Paperblocks

by Gordon. 2 Comments

This is the first of several personal project’s that I plan to open source in the coming months. As I’ve slowly begun the process of migrating all of my personal projects from a private gitosis installation to github to a new server, I’ve realized that most of my 43 private repositories will amount to nothing in my hands alone. I’m also a big fan of free software without restrictions. With that in mind, I am licensing these projects under the MIT license.

Paperblocks is a flash 3d tetris game I made in my spare time years ago. I previously made a short blurb about it here. It is built with Flex and Papervision3D with a small php high scores backend. The original inspiration for the game was from Blockout, which was one of my favorites growing up.

Play the game or check out the source code. Cheers!

Windows 8 Isn’t That Bad

by Gordon. 8 Comments

There seems to be a large amount of backlash directed towards Windows 8 due to the fact that it’s new UI exists alongside the old Windows desktop. I must confess that I was slightly shocked myself to witness the context switch take place on the video, but I was shocked in a good way. Ironically, the reason why I think it’s good to have a Windows desktop alongside a touch UI is based on the same reasoning as why I switched from Windows to OS X in the first place.

I am typing this right now on my latest generation MacBook Air. The reason why I switched to OS X was because it was the best of both worlds. I could have a Unix shell, Adobe products, as well be able to use XCode to develop iOS applications (which you can’t do on Windows, but that is a separate issue). I could do everything Windows could and more. Analogously, choosing between Windows 8 and iOS for a casual user is very similar.

I also have an iPad 2 and an iPad before that. People, mostly family, are always very attracted to my iPad and frequently ask me if they should buy one to replace their existing aging laptop. My answer is always a resounding no. Were that to happen, they would inevitably call me and ask how to open Office documents, view flash websites, and do all the other countless things that an iPad is not suited for.

Windows 8 solves this problem. Sure, there will be an initial period where some apps will only be available in desktop form. But, at least there will be a less elegant way to do things that otherwise couldn’t be done. Additionally, this will only result in low hanging fruit for developers. If the metro tiling interface takes off, consumers will prefer a metro based application and developers will build one. Similarly, Android’s additional OS-level features (at the sake of battery life, some might say) are one of the reasons why I prefer it over iOS.

Another argument against Windows 8 is that of market and developer confusion. There is no market and developer confusion. Apple has already set the precedent. Consumers and developers both know what they want and what to build respectively. The capability is there and the developer who builds what the consumer wants will win.

Based on WP7′s market performance, who knows what will happen. My argument here is not to say Windows 8 is a winner. It is simply to say that the the arguments against it are misguided. I, for one, would prefer to be able to do more than less. One thing that is certain, however, is that having more competitors and innovation in the mobile/touch landscape is a good thing.

What It’s Like to be Recruited

by Gordon. 21 Comments

252 Recruiter Emails

Roughly three months ago (in the beginning of March), for a variety of reasons, I decided to put my resume out there on the interwebs. Here I chronicle my experience being a software developer on some of the most popular and widely used job channels.

Background

For some context, I was doing research on an idea I had (now GroupTalent) and was also willing to entertain the idea of flexible interesting mobile projects. My resume included the following:

  1. B.S. in CS and Math
  2. SDE at Microsoft
  3. YC Founder (Team Apart S’08, now defunct)
  4. Misc. consulting
  5. Independent app development (iOS and Android)

My objective read:

Seeking freelance or short term contract iPhone and Android development positions.

I posted this resume on Monster and CareerBuilder. I had also previously created a profile on StackOverflow careers and GitHub jobs. Additionally, and importantly, I had indicated that I would be willing to relocate.

Results

To relate my experience, I will begin with some numbers and then move into a more anecdotal portrayal.

Over the course of the roughly three month period after posting my resume, I diligently labeled all incoming emails from recruiters in GMail. Thankfully, I also use Google voice, and was easily able to identify and count calls and voicemails from recruiters. The numbers I am about to give exclude the numerous automatic emails sent from these sites; they all represent contact from actual people (or at least present themselves as so). The screenshot at the beginning of this post would suggest that I had received 252 emails, but this number is from when I began drafting this post roughly a week ago.

As I write this, all in all I have received: 266 emails and 96 voicemails. This roughly equates to 12.7 emails and 4.3 voicemails per workday. There were also some additional calls that I actually answered or that didn’t result in a voicemail. My Monster.com profile was viewed 261 times and “saved” 37 times. My CareerBuilder.com profile showed up in 343 searches (presumably by employers), and was viewed 31 times. My profile on StackOverflow careers was viewed by employers a whopping 1 time and had 3 search hits. GitHub jobs doesn’t appear to reveal any data of this kind.

The emails varied immensely in personalization and adherence to what I was actually looking for. My CV’s objective of short term Android and iPhone projects functioned as a mere leitmotif or not at all. My overall impression was that many recruiters simply do blanket keyword searches for terms such as “java”. Interestingly enough, many recruiters reached out to me on the premise that they found my resume on other sites such as Dice that I had never even created a profile on. It turns out that most recruiters do not even interface with the job sites directly, but instead use 3rd party software which crawls all the job boards for them.

Employers ranged from small startups to large corporations, the average being somewhere in between. The companies also included the likes of desirable A-Companies such as Amazon and Zynga. The split of jobs that were local and those which required relocation was about half and half with perhaps a few more on the relocation side.

Most recruiters were either head hunters or part of 3rd party staffing companies, but many were internal recruiters as well. For the first week, I actually answered all incoming calls, but this eventually became unmanageable. I used the opportunity to hear them out and also sometimes give them a reverse pitch on GroupTalent for feedback. Some recruiters were actually extremely savy people who wanted to build a relationship with you. Others were pretty abrasive. My favorite conversation was with the recruiter who actually suggested that I take a job at a mega corp while I still could since everything was going to be outsourced in the near future anyways.

Thoughts

According to Joel Spolsky, most good developers will never even be exposed to this situation since they will never be on the market. Combine this with the fact that everyone sucks at hiring and you have an industry that is basically a crap shoot. I also wonder if companies realize that many of their candidates are acquired through pseudo-spam.

In the interest of full disclosure, I actually have used Monster a few years ago and did wind up with an excellent consulting gig that was very flexible, but my experience was similarly noisy. I consider myself at least a decent developer and believe that good developers are on the market or are at least willing to entertain new opportunities. I predict that in the coming years the demand for top talent will be even higher and companies will need to resort to new ways to find and incentivize developers. While the experience I have presented here can vary, especially for new grads and developers travelling through reputation or word of mouth, my goal here was simply to give some perspective.

What is your experience being recruited?