13 January 2018

Mirror, mirror, on the wall

Excellent summary of Star Trek’s Mirror Universe along with the major plot threads of the latest #StarTrekDiscovery episode.  https://youtu.be/c0Wq36aHT6A

31 March 2017

Hungry FDA Official Orders Massive Pot Pie Recall

An oldie but goodie.


Astronomical Odds Against Us

Computer illustration by Dana Berry, commissioned by National Geographic magazine for its July 2013 issue cover, depicting the formation of the Earth's Moon in a scientifically plausible visual style. 

The prevailing theory is the young Earth collided with a Mars sized planet in a manner that caused much of the Earth's material to eject out and eventually coalesce into the Moon, initially in a nearer orbit than today. 

I find it fascinating to learn that things we consider stable or permanent on a human timescale, such as the orbit of planets, the distance to the Moon, or even something as fundamental as sunshine, are themselves subject to gradual or sometimes devastatingly dramatic change. 

Life is precious, the Earth is sacred, and we are not just made of star stuff and a way for the universe to know itself, but we are also a unique opportunity to feel and show gratitude for having come into existence despite literally astronomical odds against us.

26 October 2016

The Next Big Thing in Tech

There is now a set of emerging technology that are competing to be the "next big thing" in tech.

Back in the '90s, the Internet rolled into all our lives, growing from a computer network used mostly by universities, government, and the military, to a full blown social, economic, and political revolution. It hardly surprised anyone. We could see it coming. There were even AT&T television commercials depicting everyday life with Internet powered services that we take for granted today.

Also during that time, we clearly could see that mobile technology would be big. Cell phones were proliferating, especially the Motorola flip phones. We knew that one day, computers would be handheld and merged with the phone. But we didn't know exactly how soon, nor how ubiquitous mobile tech would become. Of course, mobile tech extended and vastly expanded the reach of the Internet revolution.

Now we have some newly emerging technologies that are vying for attention. Namely, virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, chat bots, and driverless cars.

Virtual reality (VR) promises to immerse the senses of the user, in a manner most easily associated with playing video games. VR tech from decades before were heavy, slow, and expensive, but those constraints have been overcome, largely due to the advances in mobile tech. Sci-fi movies have glorified the promise of VR, yet today's news media regularly portrays users of VR as people acting clumsy in the real world while wearing VR headgear. Having to shut out the real world while using VR has its obvious disadvantages, which makes usage of VR a very intentional and inherently isolating act, not something to do for a few seconds or even a minute here or there, like glancing at a smartphone or casually playing a mobile game app.

Augmented reality (AR) trades the immersive aspect of VR with technology that overlays computer generated visuals with a view of the real world.  While avoiding the isolation of VR, the use of AR introduces additional complications, such as distractions from real life hazards, and expensive see-through display technology. I think in the long run, AR has more potential for both business and personal applications, than VR. Perhaps there will be a future hybrid AR/VR device that can easily switch between the two modes.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been envisioned for over half a century and has become viable as computing technology has accelerated in processing power and affordability. Many different emerging technologies are closely related to AI, including learning networks, speech recognition, natural language processing, speech synthesis, foreign language translation, and predictive analytics. There is a common fear, also frequently portrayed in sci-fi films, of AI, especially when combined with robotics, resulting in apocalyptic destruction and death, driven by soulless vengeance and limitless ambition for power. Some predict the Singularity will occur, when the machines develop their own intelligence faster than humans can control. Such fears may limit the trust consumers have with AI, which I predict will give initial prominence to AI related applications that only partially automate things, where people feel they still have some control, but enjoy some benefits of AI assistance.

Chat bots are a mashup of text messaging platforms and some aspects of AI. The shift in attention from disparate mobile apps to the stickiness of mobile text messaging platforms allows for software providers to refocus the entire user experience of an application to a text based natural language processing user interface. Customer service functions are leading the way. Other functions will likely follow. Chat bots, especially if voice recognition is mixed with the text interface, could possibly become the channel for AI to be accepted into daily mainstream use.

Driverless cars have garnered a lot of media and industry attention the past few years. Such vehicles are already in limited use under narrow conditions. Partial automation is also in use in Tesla cars, resulting in some fatal accidents. Truly autonomous vehicles which can navigate all roads under all conditions are still decades away. Fog, snow, and other foul weather hinder the sensors. Navigation maps are not always accurate or up to date. But the impact to the transportation industry will obviously be massive. It is yet to be proven there will be less traffic, but it is hoped that overall traffic safety will improve, while levels of car ownership, already on a downward trend, will likely continue to drop with both the convenience and cost of driverless cars.

What is possibly the most tantalizing idea is the likelihood that the next big thing might not be any of these things. It would not surprise some people, especially those of us in Silicon Valley, if some entirely new technology, built by a previously unknown, innovative teenage girl in her parents garage or basement or bedroom corner, rapidly emerges as the next big thing to change the world.

21 January 2016

7 Steps to Turn Every Employee into a Super Recruiter

Jobvite asked me to be a guest blogger, focusing on some consulting material that I have provided to my clients on building a robust employee referral program.  Please check it out:

7 Steps to Turn Every Employee into a Super Recruiter

10 October 2015

Replacement to traditional resumes/CVs

Like it or not, it has become abundantly clear that LinkedIn profiles are the only viable online replacement to traditional resumes/CVs.

The "death of resumes" certainly is not imminent, but for all the many different proposed / launched alternatives, LinkedIn has won, hands down.

John Lasseter remembers Steve Jobs on Charlie Rose


How Not to Be a Networking Leech

How Not to Be a Networking Leech: Tips for Seeking Professional Advice: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/09/27/jobs/how-not-to-be-a-networking-leech-tips-for-seeking-professional-advice.html?referer=

08 May 2015

Jobvite Reawakens

Today's Jobvite Summit 2015 customer conference in San Francisco revealed that at least in terms of product development, the company has reawakened from a bewildering and detrimental slumber over the past few years. Live demos of the new homepage dashboard, the "candidate centric" profile format, and most importantly, the new data reports platform, proved that Jobvite is finally responding to its most vocal customers and impressively gearing up to once again fully compete in today's fast evolving recruitment technology market.

For many years, customers have shared feedback of feature wishlists and functional pain points, only to be told development for many such ideas would remain in the undetermined future. As Jobvite's market share and aspirations for larger and geographically disperse deals has grown, the pressure to address their products' functional gaps have become more pronounced and are now impossible to ignore.

While always facing a variety of competition, the recent emergence of spunky, VC funded, new startups, such as Greenhouse and Lever, who intentionally designed product functionality and marketing messages to target the specific concerns of disillusioned Jobvite customers, has provided healthy motivation for Jobvite to both catch up and renew timely innovation with its products.

Organizationally, Jobvite has also experienced some transition, with its own latest round of VC funding allowing Jobvite to recently beef up its own engineering team (and, accordingly, its in-house recruiting team), directly adding badly needed product development capacity. In addition, some changes in its senior management ranks has allowed for new and existing players to step up and briskly execute on long languishing initiatives.

For at least two years, Jobvite struggled with stamping out numerous bugs from its newer "blue" user interface overhaul, transitioning its application hosting to Amazon Web Services, constructing a complicated new analytics and reporting system based on a third party business intelligence tool, and fending off expectation-lowering competition from low-cost, feature-light system providers. All the while, frustrations from a distinct minority of its customer base were often left unresolved by a lack of product functionality development, customer success resolution, or both. Some of those customers have since switched to eagerly beckoning competitors, permanently lost from the Jobvite ecosystem. It really seemed that Jobvite was asleep at the wheel, or at least unable to step on the gas.

Had I observed no new changes in the company's trajectory with its product development from what seemed to be happening since around mid-2014, this blog post would likely be describing a vendor in the early stages of a tech startup death spiral.

However, what the Jobvite team accomplished at today's conference was to show its reinvigorated innovation feathers and a light at the end of what has been a long and dark tunnel for its customers. It must actually deliver to its customers the demo'd new features and do its best to gain strong user adoption. That would represent Jobvite finally catching up on its lost couple of years. And only then will it be in position, by building and shipping even greater product features, to retake its market leadership role in which its customers are once again truly delighted by their chosen provider of recruitment technology.

Mason Wong is the founding principal of ZWD Recruitment Management and Independent Jobvite Consulting.

21 November 2014

Peak Genesis

The original live version of "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" was the peak of Genesis, in my opinion. I am a fan of all the many eras of Genesis, but my first favorite era was the mid-'80s.

This song and it's arrangement is powerful, ethereal, atmospheric, and even a bit gratuitous, sort of emblematic of the 1980's and its MTV driven consumerism and ambition. Phil's voice was still fully intact, allowing for the original aggressive delivery of the lyrics, and the song to retain its original key, as well as Tony Banks's mysterious sounding synth keyboard bridge, none of which would ever be repeated in subsequent live tours.