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Posts Tagged ‘software’

Discriminating Software

The Economist takes a look at the software that big companies are using to sort through job applicants. It finds that people who use Chrome and Firefox browsers are better employees, and people with criminal records are suited to work in call centers. One drawback to having a computer sort potential employees is that its algorithms may treat some variables as proxies for race, as discussed in our “How Much Does Your Name Matter?” podcast, in which the Harvard computer scientist Latanya Sweeney found that distinctively black names are more likely to draw ads that offer arrest records. 

What Do You Have to Say about "Trophy Inflation" and "Gamification"?

An interesting e-mail from a reader/listener named Andrei Herasimchuk about what he calls “gamification”: 

It’s a word and term that drives me nuts these days. I design software, and have done so for two decades now. Everyone is trying to add gamification features to their products these days in the tech industry. Think badges, achievements, and things normally found in a game like World of Warcraft. People in this industry lately seem to believe that these sorts of things drive engagement in their products. From everything I’ve seen, and from influences of your work, I’d assume what people really want to do is find ways to design incentives into products. Incentives versus Gamification? What works better?

Andrei (and I) would love to hear what you have to say on this question. I have a few superficial thoughts:

The Value of a 70-Year-Old Software Engineer

I was chatting with a 70-year-old man who is an independent “software engineer”—a programmer. I asked him how he keeps up with all the young hot-shots who know the latest fancy programming languages. Simple, he said: There are many companies that are just converting very old systems, and the young programmers don’t know the older languages.
Being technically obsolete gives him an advantage. Economists believe that human capital and technology are complements (something I show by negative example when I can’t get my Powerpoint presentations to work on a projector!). But so long as companies don’t introduce new technologies, those workers with “obsolete” human capital will do OK. Indeed, this man charges higher than average fees, because there are so few other programmers left who can deal with the old technology!