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Must have $YEARS experience in $ACRONYM

Date/Time Permalink: 07/11/08 07:25:19 pm
Category: Humor

Slashdot has a very good story up on The Web Development Skills Crisis. The discussion in the comments is very educational for new tech workers entering the market. Yes, kids, it really is that stupid. The HR who wants one year experience in a platform that just broke beta yesterday, the manager who insists you know some buzzword that's entirely unrelated to the task, the insane expectations of mastery in exchange for the depressing low wage: they're all true. They aren't even the most extreme cases.

And freelance tech workers will recognize the trend trickling down into one-shot contract jobs as well. You can tell when you're dealing with a company posting through HR as opposed to a lone webmaster: The home or independent business webmaster tells you what they want done, and leaves it to you to decide what tools to use. The company churns out a page of acronyms and leaves you with no clue what it is they want done. It sounds Web-two-point-ohey and synergistic and will be kind of a media-immersive experience or something, but really, stop laughing. What do you want me to do?

"I need you to integrate a viral marketing set-piece design with interactive content."

No, try again. What do you want me to do?

"You must have 18 years experience in J2EE with ASP certification on a LAMP server using REST and RAID and UUCP and PCI and knowledge of ICANN."

No, listen. Try answering with two words. One of them is to be a verb. The other one is a noun which will be the object of the verb. Now, one last time. What do you want me to do?


Shoooooow, very good, stay with me. Don't blank out now. Fly towards the light.


Oh! You want to have video clips on your website like YouTube!

"Hey, yeah! YouTube? You have knowledge of the YouTube?"

Yeah, I'm at one with the YouTube. Couple of object tags, maybe some Javascript if you want to search the catalog, we're there.

Cynically, I've formed some self-defensive laws: One is, any new tech that comes out, I don't even waste my time on it for two years. If it's still going around after the two-year hype wears off, then it's worth learning. It's the "shelf life" test. The other one is, there's no connection between the number of acronyms in the job ad and the actual work you'll be doing. With some exceptions, applied with common sense. After a while, you get to spot the ringers.

What's worse is when people insist on brand names, when any generic application in that family will do. Illustrator= any vector editor, 3DMax= any ray-tracer or mesh-modeler, and the dreaded P***oS**p= any raster editor. Yeah, if you insist, I'll do the work in Inkscape, then sneaker-net it over to the Windows XP box to open it in Illustrator, check it, and re-save it. There, it's an Illustrator file.

Brand-tunnel-vision even works that way on Open Source software. "I need a Bash script that will run on Ubuntu." Sure, I've done many Bash scripts for Linux distros. "Yeah, but for Ubuntu???"

Magic words. That's all they're really asking. "Do you know magic words?" These computer things are scary and intimidating. You have to control computers with magic words. Can you do that?

Yes, I know all of the magic words! Why, I could babble them at you all day. Come to that, I could make up some new ones. I could say that I have 1000 years experience in Visual Perl, Objective SQL, Lisp-Flat, Emerald (the successor to Ruby), Capsula-3, Cisco++, and Googlese. God knows, there's people out there that claim that. But really, I'd rather just talk in terms that everybody knows. It sometimes takes a neurological hack straight out of a William Gibson novel to do it, but I always eventually find the connection in the brain between English and what they want the magic box to do.

Which usually ends up being something like converting their .GIF logo to vector, combing the brain-dead Frontpage Express code out of their HTML so it will work, and straightening out the server-side code so it only accesses the database when it needs to.

And it isn't anybody's fault, and it isn't going to get better. Technology is just... like that sometimes.

Too bad you can't see this nifty little isometric sig I did. Life is like that sometimes.

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