the pseudonymous exploits of wombat boy

Monday, May 31, 2004

Whiteboard Coding Sucks 

I write code. Good code. There is a fair chance that I wrote the web browser you are using to read these words. This is what I do. Well last week I got persuaded by a recruiter to interview at another company, even though I am reasonably happily employed right now. However, the mating ritual of a tech company is a strange one. They pursue people, flatter them, say they can't live without them, then once they have them in the building they subject them to rigorous testing. In this case it meant that hordes of Phds interrogated me, one after the other, coming and going through the course of an entire day. And what did they want me to do? Write code. Now you'd think that the fact that I've written successful commercial applications might be some vague indication that I can write code, but no, they have to see me do it. On a white board.

Let's repeat that. A white board. A fucking whiteboard. They want me to do computer programming, but not on a computer. And also not written in private with time to think about things, get a cup of coffee, write a bit of code, think about it, write some more, change my mind and write it a bit differently, and then eventually after I've got it working beautifully and running like a rocket propelled cheetah, show it to someone else. No. They want me to write it line by line on the whiteboard, as Athena sprang fullly formed from the head of Zeus. While they watch (and often there are two or three of them). And they don't just watch, they heckle, and ask "Are you sure you mean to do it like that?" and "Isn't that the wrong way around?" and all the fucking annoying things that people would say if I let anybody look over my shoulder when I code, which I do not.

Programmers of the world unite. We should all say no to whiteboard coding. It's unnatural and the only time anybody is ever good at it is when they are cheating, like when people already know the answer or when they have memorized solutions to common programming problems for just this eventuality.

Luckily I didn't need the job this time, but it's made me think about the whiteboard interview. When I do decide to leave my current company I'm going to cheat like everybody else; do a web search for common programming questions, take an afternoon coding up perfect answers and I will practice writing those solutions on a whiteboard until I appear to be as competent as I actually am.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Network versus Network

I love the British sitcom "Coupling". Don't be put off by the terrible attempt NBC made to make an Americanized version - the original British version, which is still in production, is stunningly good.

Right now the new series 4 of Coupling is being broadcast in the UK on BBC3, and fans in the US are impatiently waiting for the series to be re-broadcast on the US cable channel BBC America. The delay varies: for this series the delay will be about a month, but for previous series the wait stretched to several months.

Except lots of people aren't waiting any more. It turns out that the new episodes get digitized by UK Coupling fans and put on the net the same day. Not only is internet delivery faster than BBC America, the picture quality is much better; BBC America badly crop and zoom the picture, whereas the videos on the net are crystal-clear widescreen.

So the lesson for BBC America is "wake up". You now have competition.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Mormon Island Hell

I just got back from Hawaii, which is, as you know, delicious. While there, we spent a day at the Polynesian Cultural Experience, which was the weirdest thing. It's like one of those movies that starts with a perfect vacation spot which slides downhill into a nightmare, like Westworld or Jurassic Park.

All the people you meet working there are friendly beautiful Polynesians, but gradually you realise that the whole enterprise is owned and operated by the Mormons, the perfect enemy of the relaxed liberal Polynesian culture. You know the Mormons who dispatched missionaries to those islands to destroy the native culture, and make everybody wear clothes and stop having fun.

So what you get is a patronising mormonized version of island culture. A lei is not presented as is traditional with a kiss of friendship, because that's too racy for the tight-arsed mormons. The "traditional" dress that the performers wear includes long underwear, zips up the back, and even whole extra lycra garments to ensure a Salt Lake City standard of decency at all times. Don't expect any alcohol at the evening Luaua - there isn't even caffeine. Depriving Americans of alcohol while on a Hawaiian trip is cruel and unusual punishment.

We were repeatedly offered a free side-trip to the Mormon temple, a really offensive way to treat paying customers there for a celebration of the polynesian culture.

So how do they get all these young polynesians there to staff the center? The deal is that they get to come out to attend Brigham Young University Hawaii, but must work their way through college at the Polynesian Cultural Center. I can see the upside of this, but it seems to me that the church is making a big profit on the deal, and that it aims to send them back home to their islands as Mormon missionaries. Diabolically clever really, using the pretense of preserving their culture to help destroy it.

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