kill the technical interview

Update: Patrick McKenzie, Erin Ptacek, and Thomas Ptacek actually have a pretty good way of hacking the problem. I recommend heading their way and signing up for whatever it is they have in the works because there is no way it will be as bad as the usual technical interview process.

I’ve been trying to hack around the technical interview process but so far I’ve been unsuccessful. That’s not to say the experience has not been worthwhile. My ability to discriminate between professional software shops and amateur ones has increased a little bit. Here are the criteria I’ve settled on. Continue reading

not rocket science (bundled chef cookbooks)

It is possible to do configuration management right but it is also possible to do it wrong. One way to do it wrong is to combine the provisioning and deployment logic into various cookbooks and isolate them from the applications that depend on them. The reason this is wrong is because to understand how the application works in production you now have to chase down dependencies somewhere else and once you get there the cookbooks will not make much sense because they will make assumptions about the application. This is all a long-winded way of saying you are keeping track of two contexts when in reality there is really just one context, the application and its associated infrastructure logic. Continue reading

i’m a full-stack developer unless…

You need someone that understands how to design extensible database schemas both for SQL and NoSQL databases, optimize kernel settings like process limits and TCP socket settings for your application and proxy servers, debug network issues, design secure APIs and mitigate any damage caused by the inevitable security exploit, manage hybrid on-premise/cloud clusters and networks, work with your favorite MVC framework both on the front-end and the back-end, have expertise in Ruby, Python, JavaScript, Java, AtScript, OCaml, F#, etc. and be equally proficient in all those languages, set up a hadoop cluster so that you can use machine learning on all the data that is being collected, implement machine learning algorithms on top of previously mentioned hadoop cluster, track down performance regressions by figuring out what is going on with CPU cache lines, codify infrastructure configuration with your favorite configuration management tool, implement a robust and efficient build and deployment pipeline, and so on and so forth.

Please stop using the phrase “full-stack developer”. The phrase “full-stack developer” is completely devoid of any meaning because as you can see above no one can be a full-stack developer given the complexity of the modern stack. In fact hearing the phrase makes me think that the place putting out the job advert is full of amateurs. Instead just spell out exactly what your stack looks like and specify you want people that have a certain level of expertise with that stack.

interview questions (graphs and cycles)

Pretty much any interview problem is going to be something about graphs or other data structures with a very thin veneer for “motivation”. The most recent one for me was a basic problem in graph theory under the guise of printing a dependency tree

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feature creep a.k.a. loss aversion

Feature creep is a manifestation of loss aversion from economics and decision theory. Not really my idea but was something I was recently thinking about when I stumbled on this post. That post is in the context of Windows versions and the continual feature creep to appease all users everywhere but applies equally well to pretty much all software.