Archive for December, 2013


Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

… the code in your browser that powers Facebook still knows what you typed — even if you decide not to publish it.

Facebook calls these unposted thoughts “self-censorship,” and insights into how it collects these nonposts can be found in a recent paper written by two Facebookers. Sauvik Das, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon and summer software engineer intern at Facebook, and Adam Kramer, a Facebook data scientist, have put online an article presenting their study of the self-censorship behavior collected from 5 million English-speaking Facebook users. It reveals a lot about how Facebook monitors our unshared thoughts and what it thinks about them.

Storing text as you type isn’t uncommon on other websites. For example, if you use Gmail, your draft messages are automatically saved as you type them. Even if you close the browser without saving, you can usually find a (nearly) complete copy of the email you were typing in your Drafts folder. Facebook is using essentially the same technology here.

Facebook studies this because the more its engineers understand about self-censorship, the more precisely they can fine-tune their system to minimize self-censorship’s prevalence. This goal—designing Facebook to decrease self-censorship — is explicit in the paper.

I’m intrigued that Facebook would be interested in decreasing self-censorship, let alone that it would attempt to use technology to achieve this: self-censorship is a good definition of a “social matter,” and technical solutions have a poor track record of addressing social matters.

so, what was your last salary?

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

If you were earning $52,000, your new job offer might come in at $53,500. If you earned two hundred and forty-five thousand dollars a year, expect a job offer around two-sixty. Notwithstanding the exacting pay grades, salary charts and ranges laid out by bureaucrats the world over, the strongest predictor of a new hire’s starting salary is whatever he or she was earning at the last job.

That’s discouraging – and pathetic! If an organization doesn’t know how to value your talents other than by looking at what somebody else paid you in a completely different situation, they don’t know squat about the talent market. How are you ever going to increase your earnings if every time you change jobs, you get a tiny raise over what they paid you at the last place?

Employers treat salaries as confidential information… except, often, when it comes to new hires. The above contains sound advice: provide them information on what you would require of them to take the job, not what you’re getting paid today (though if you’re lucky, the figures might match up in some way).

At the other end of the employment life cycle, we have the exit interview: many employers expect a departing employee to subject themselves to a one-hour meeting with a member of the HR team where questions, mostly revolving around the question, “so, why are you leaving?” are asked.

My advice here matches that from OneFTE: say enough to not burn bridges, but at the same time not so much that bridges are burned. It’s a fine line.

motorcyclists, or us-vs-them

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

At present, the Queensland government seem intent on alienating anyone who happens to utilise two-wheeled, motorised transport — particularly where this form of transport is used for recreational purposes. All because a handful of motorcyclists — bad eggs, no doubt — performed criminal acts.

The dumb thing is that the legislation being used as the blunt instrument to “punish” the bad eggs doesn’t even refer to motorcyclists in particular: the media, in their desire to simplify the legislation, have taken the soundbites direct from the government of the day… and it seems, in many cases, haven’t actually bothered to comprehend the legislation itself.

Subsequent to this, a certain subset of the population have seen this War On Bikies as a way to grind an axe against all motorcyclists, often for tenuous reasons or perceived slights. Since Campbell Newman started his campaign, I’ve had other road users hurl abuse at me for daring to be on a motorcycle; I’ve heard stories from my fellow motorcyclists of worse than this occurring.

To that end, understand this:

  1. Criminal behaviour is criminal behaviour. Riding a bike does not equate to criminal behaviour.
  2. Assuming you must stereotype, please understand the difference between a member of an outlaw group — one of the few ways in which the current legislation does refer to any group of individuals — and a non-member of an outlaw group. Again, riding a bike does not necessarily equate to membership in an outlaw group.

Taking the law into your own hands makes you the same class of criminal you claim to abhor.


Sunday, December 15th, 2013

American intelligence and law enforcement investigators have concluded that they may never know the entirety of what the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden extracted from classified government computers before leaving the United States.

The only thing that springs to mind here: how many other contractors were also able to purloin data — but haven’t released it to the world’s media?

hfc in the nbn

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

… the review proposes to take the existing Telstra and Optus HFC cable networks, and to transform them into a modern broadband network via major investment in these areas.

Despite claims to the contrary, this use of shared segments in the last part of the network is also the case in the existing NBN fibre (FTTP) design.

This is precisely why I’m all for the use of contestable HFC as part of an NBN solution: it’s no worse than FTTP as proposed by the previous government, and it’s a hell of a lot quicker to deploy.