Interview Questions: Can They Ask That?

Wendy Ryan at published an article entitled “Can they ask that? Illegal interview topics.” The article breaks down some common interview questions that are of questionable legality, which can come up in a job hunt. You can read the article here:

In my book, Information Age Management: How to Increase Productivity by Getting the Best Out of Contractors, Vendors, Telecommuters, and Other Geeks in a Rapidly Changing Workplace, I devote an entire section (Section III) to How to Find and Keep Good Workers. The chapters within that section break down as follows:

  • Writing a Good Help Wanted Ad
  • Online Job Application and Screening Applications
  • First Contact Protocol
  • Screening
  • Evaluations
  • In Conclusion – Hiring Workers

I begin by explaining what sort of workers the modern company needs and then I detail how to make the correct impact using effective help wanted posts, online job boards, et. al. I also explain how to interview a new worker, particularly for a technical position.

The philosophy of Information Age Management is to focus on results above all else. As such, the sorts of questions that (correctly) points out as being common are not only legally iffy but they are also superfluous and a sign of a poorly managed company – or at least a poor interviewer.

Once you’ve read Information Age Management and digested the philosophy and techniques that lead to a more productive workplace, you’ll be in a position to ask better questions, get better personnel, keep them, and find success together.

Information Age Management: How to Increase Productivity by Getting the Best Out of Contractors, Vendors, Telecommuters, and Other Geeks in a Rapidly Changing Workplace
is available from and

From What Does Google Want Out of Your Voice?

A timely article has just appeared in asking what it is that Google gets out of offering the extensive storage and bandwidth needed to provide the free Google Voice. From the article:

Why is that so attractive? There’s a cynical guess, a reasonable line you can draw through their previous voice-based initiatives, and then there’s just a question mark the size of a server farm. The cynical guess is that, now that Google has unified their products under one privacy policy and one set of terms of use, Google Voice will be just another feeder for their vast database on you.

The article in also points out another possibility:

The reasonable line is that Google wants to get much, much better at speech-to-text, and at understanding what people really want when they say things out loud. By having all your friends leave their voicemails on your Google Voice account, then clicking to mark them as useful or not, and then further sending the message to Google if was a really bad miss, Google will get better at understanding all the ways that humans say things.

Although the “reasonable line” is almost certainly accurate, it may not be the complete picture. And regardless of the reasons Google is tracking voice patterns, the tracking would appear to be taking place. I make the following point about Google in the appendix to Information Age Management:

Google is open about the fact that it keeps search history, voiceprints, and much more information in order to profile its users, thereby increasing its business offerings to its partners. And Google is also collecting the data of the people you communicate with over these channels – whether they’ve agreed to Google’s terms of service or not.

Although there is every reason to think that Google keeps this data as secure as it can, it is a large amount of personal data for any organization to have. And there is no guarantee that it will be kept secure from future Google ownership, authoritarian governments, hackers, and other adversaries who want to benefit from this enormous resource.

To support this last point, I point the reader to the following article that appeared in on January 14, 2010:

My book continues this train of thought by proposing ways to find a good SaaS (Software as a Service) provider. To wit:

The best course of action when choosing an SaaS provider is to find one with a strong reputation for maintaining the integrity and security of its data and for maintaining robust privacy and data retention policies. Then talk to them about encryption and about adopting the AGPL.

You can read more about SaaS by purchasing Information Age Management or by downloading Information Age Management :: The Technology Appendix with Pay-With-a-Tweet.

The article from is available here:

How Big US Firms Use Open Source Software

Open Source Initiative KeyholeThere’s a wonderful study that’s just been done on how big US firms use open source software.

From the study:

In a summary, our results show that the adoption of OSS in large US companies is significant and is increasing over time ….

The researchers searched web server logs, among other things, and broke the results down by industry (Retail, Manufacturing, etc.) You can find the full article here:

IT Personality Types

I just saw a fun “IT Personality Types” quiz, which touches on the types of geek one is likely to find. You can find the quiz here:

Personally, I think the types are not quite accurate and the quiz questions make more than a few assumptions. But reading through the various types is pretty amusing.

I found it via a more in-depth article on IT personality types at

I have my own breakdown of the various types of geeks you’re likely to encounter – and how to effectively manage them to your mutual benefit – in my book, Information Age Management and my book has the benefit of having comic illustrations drawn by the incredible Tom Bolger of

Get a Free Copy of “The Technology Appendix” for a Tweet!

Pay With a Tweet for "Information Age Management :: The Technology Appendix" by Jason Cotman
Get a copy of Information Age Management :: The Technology Appendix by Jason Cotman in exchange for posting one Tweet or Facebook post.

It’s a service called and their Terms promise they won’t misuse your data and they explicitly state that they won’t post without your consent, so it seems pretty good to me.

Click on the icon in the sidebar or click here to pay with a Tweet for Information Age Management :: The Technology Appendix

Outages, The Blame Game, and Solutions has a great article entitled “Who do you blame when IT breaks?” by Patrick Thibodeau.

The article discusses a recent study by the Uptime Institute that reported the responsible parties in data center outages over a medium size sample group. The largest contributor to outages, according to the report? Vendors. From the article:

External forces who work on the customer’s data center or supply equipment to it, including manufacturers, vendors, factory representatives, installers, integrators, and other third parties were responsible for 50% to 60% of the incidents reported in those years, according to Uptime.

That’s not to say that internal sources were not to blame. On the contrary, “34% of the abnormal incidents in 2009 were attributed to operations staff, followed by 41% in 2010, and 40% last year.” But for those who have worked in IT, a pattern seems to be emerging from the data.

Obviously, you absolutely must find good vendors if you’re going to be successful and my book, Information Age Management: How to Increase Productivity by Getting the Best Out of Contractors, Vendors, Telecommuters, and Other Geeks in a Rapidly Changing Workplace devotes time to finding and taming good vendors. But there’s another point that is worth noting, and it’s one I touch on in the appendix to my book. You see, the Uptime Institute didn’t ask whether the companies being surveyed use proprietary technologies vs. open technologies with appropriate licensing. The reason this is important is twofold:

  • When a company uses appropriately-licensed open technologies, it is not at the mercy of the vendor to patch it, prevent incidents, nor to fix incidents when they come up. Granted, they may *choose* to do so but if it’s late at night and push comes to shove, a company that uses open tech can write and fire off a patch in no time, instead of waiting for the vendor to send a representative from another city or state. This means that you can eliminitate a large amount of that 50-60% downtime caused by a vendor bottleneck.
  • Open-source software is easier for the internal staff to understand. Its openness means it is more likely to be standard, which means it probably won’t be a one-off technology that only the vendor has been trained in. Also, the inner workings of the router/server/daemon/etc. will be visible to your internal IT staff so your internal team will be less likely to make errors when using the equipment and will be more likely to fix any errors they do make before they turn into outages.

From a technological standpoint, it’s a win-win. From a financial perspective, too. Think about it: if you do end up doing some of the vendor’s job in the middle of a crisis, so what? You’d be paying your sysadmin overtime during a crisit anyway so you might as well pay him to be productive. You’ll save money by fixing the problem sooner rather than later and you’ll have leverage at your next contract negotiation with your vendor.