How an ‘adventurous’ hike allowed me to finally finish a book.

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It’s easy to panic when you realize that a five-foot rattlesnake is swimming a few feet away from you.

My wife and I had agreed to let a good friend of ours take us on a hike through the wilds of eastern Oregon. The hike itself, we’d been assured as we loaded up the SUV with water, provisions, and a very friendly dog, was an easy one — no more than a mile along a well-defined trail, with a famous hot spring to plunge into at the very end.

In order to reach the hiking trail, we took Highway 95 to the flyspeck town of Jordan Valley, near the Idaho-Oregon border. From there, we turned onto a dirt road for another thirty miles of bumpy driving, until we arrived at the Owyhee Canyon rim, where rocky switchbacks led to the valley floor far below. This was the height of summer, and we could feel the day’s rising heat pushing against the SUV’s windows. …


It all comes down to the theory of the “10x developer.”

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For years, Netflix has maintained a reputation as a company that pays its technologists huge salaries. Data has backed up that assertion; for example, crowdsourced compensation numbers from levels.fyi suggest that Netflix’s software engineers can make nearly half a million dollars per year, well ahead of what they might earn at rivals such as Disney and Amazon. Why does the company pay so much?

In a posting on CNBC, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings walked through his reasoning, which is pretty straightforward: During Netflix’s relatively early days, he came to believe that “the best programmer doesn’t add 10 times the value” but “more like a 100 times.” …


Setting up a future battle between employees and management.

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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies may decide to make work-from-home a permanent option for employees. After all, remote work offers benefits to employees and employers alike. However, some of these firms may attempt to force those remote workers to take a pay cut of some sort, and it’s an open question how those workers will react.

VMware is the latest company to offer its employees the chance to work from home, even after the pandemic subsides and employees nationwide begin heading back into the office. However, if those employees choose to move to a place with a lower cost of living, they’ll face an adjustment in pay. According to Bloomberg, which quoted anonymous sources within VMware, an employee moving from Palo Alto, California (where VMware is headquartered) to Denver would need to take an 18 percent salary cut; moving to Los Angeles or San Diego would translate into an eight percent cut. …


Yes, you could land a job at the search engine giant, if you have the skills.

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Many technologists want to work at Google, and with good reason. In addition to handsome compensation and great perks, the search-engine giant offers the opportunity to work on some truly groundbreaking projects, from mobile app development to quantum computing.

However, actually landing a job at Google is easier said than done. Although the firm long ago abandoned the infamous brainteasers that distinguished its interview process, it still subjects many candidates to multiple interviewing rounds, with an emphasis on evaluating not only your technical knowledge, but how well you’d work with potential team members and managers.

Google’s interview process usually kicks off with a phone interview, during which you might have to write code in a shared Google Doc that your interviewer can view. That interview may also involve other kinds of problem-solving and behavioral questions. In ordinary times, that’s usually followed by an onsite interview, where your interviewer(s) will ask questions designed to evaluate four…


The hidden perils of remote work.

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Technologists as a whole seem to have adapted well to working at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re generally happy, and many of them appreciate the ultra-short morning commute from bedroom to wherever they’ve set up their home office. But there’s another question to consider: Is all this remote work damaging their longer-term career plans?

Blind, which anonymously surveys technologists about all sorts of issues, recently lobbed that query to its audience. Some 53 percent of respondents said that, yes, the pandemic has messed up their career plans in some way.

What’s actually causing that impact? Some 74 percent of technologists said they hadn’t been able to effectively network internally since remote work began; 75 percent, meanwhile, said they were also having problems with external networking. …


Can you turn a machine into a novelist?

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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

The speculative-fiction writer Philip K. Dick used amphetamines and other stimulants to transform himself into a 24/7 writing machine. Powered by chemicals, he churned out 28 novels and more than 132 short stories (many of which used drugs as subject matter, including “A Scanner Darkly”). Nor was he alone: If pulp writers didn’t churn out as much copy as possible, they didn’t eat — and if that meant swallowing pills so you could write for two days straight, so be it.

In some ways, the writing business hasn’t changed much in the past century. For thousands of writers, the volume of copy you generate is proportional to how much you earn. Drugs are still a way to power through — I know more than one journalist or blogger who developed a nasty Adderall habit — but often it’s just a combination of caffeine and desperation. …


Now’s your chance to build some cool Android apps.

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If you’ve always desired to write Android apps, but don’t have much experience with programming, Google wants to make things a little easier for you. The company’s new online course, Android Basics in Kotlin, could give you the crucial knowledge necessary to put your very own apps together.

This isn’t Google’s first attempt to bring deeper knowledge of Kotlin (and Android app building) to the masses. Four years ago, it launched the Android Basics curriculum, which walked students through Android Studio and other tools, as well as the fundamentals of building user interfaces, working with databases, and squishing some simple bugs. …


Uncle Sam might want you… to code.

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If you’re interested in becoming a technologist for the federal government, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt wants to teach you how to code.

According to OneZero, Schmidt has partnered up with former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work to create a school for folks who want to become government coders. This U.S. Digital Service Academy would operate like a regular school, offering coursework and degree tracks, and focus on cutting-edge technology subjects such as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (A.I.).

As OneZero points out, the federal government is very interested in technologists who can craft new innovations in A.I. “We are engaged in an epic race for A.I. supremacy,” the publication quotes Rick Perry, secretary of the Department of Energy, as telling an NSCAI conference in 2019. “As I speak, China and Russia are striving to overtake us. …


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When the COVID-19 lockdowns began earlier this year, a group of data scientists and other technologists at Microsoft decided to conduct a little experiment: They would monitor their colleagues’ work patterns to see how they adapted to their new, primarily work-from-home environment. This data would be supplemented by anonymous sentiment surveys.

“For this research, we measured collaboration patterns across our 350-person Modern Workplace Transformation team, based largely in the U.S., as well as other groups within Microsoft,” this group wrote in a new article for the Harvard Business Review. …


20 authors riff on a pandemic.

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For the past few months, I’ve been working alongside co-editor Steve Weddle and publisher Jason Pinter (of Polis Books) on a very special project: “Lockdown,” an anthology of 20 suspense, noir, and horror stories set against the background of a (fictional) pandemic. One hundred percent of the proceeds from “Lockdown” will go to support BINC, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, as it seeks to help booksellers recover from the devastating COVID-19 crisis.

Some background: This project came together super-fast by publishing standards, and I’m in awe of how quickly our authors turned around their uniformly excellent, mind-blowing stories — especially since everyone was also scrambling to figure out their self-imposed lockdowns. The pandemic in the book is fictional, which allowed them to play with all kinds of subgenres: heist, zombie, murder-mystery, even an incredible riff on “Peter Pan.” …

About

Nick Kolakowski

Writer, editor, author of 'Maxine Unleashes Doomsday' and 'Boise Longpig Hunting Club.'

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