Friday, February 15, 2019

US Labor Organization AFL-CIO Urges Game Developers To Unionize In Open Letter

In the wake of Activision Blizzard's massive layoff wave, a move that was announced in the same call as the company's record quarter, the union federation AFL-CIO has published an open letter to game developers urging members of the industry to organize. The AFL-CIO itself is the largest labor organization in the United States and counts 55 individual unions (and more than 12.5 million workers) among its affiliates. The letter, readable in full on Kotaku, calls out many of the issues that have prompted conversations about unionization in just recent years like excessive crunch, toxic work conditions, inadequate pay, and job instability. The industry, points out AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer Liz Shuler, boasted sales 3.6 times greater than those of the film industry in 2018, yet much of that financial success isn't felt by the developers working on the games that generate those billions. "Executives are always quick to brag about your work. It's the talk of every industry corner office and boardroom. They pay tribute to the games that capture our imaginations and seem to defy economic gravity. They talk up the latest innovations in virtual reality and celebrate record-smashing releases, as your creations reach unparalleled new heights," says Shuler.

"My question is this: what have you gotten in return? They get rich. They get notoriety. They get to be crowned visionaries and regarded as pioneers. What do you get? Outrageous hours and inadequate paychecks. Stressful, toxic work conditions that push you to your physical and mental limits. The fear that asking for better means risking your dream job. [...] Change will happen when you gain leverage by joining together in a strong union. And, it will happen when you use your collective voice to bargain for a fair share of the wealth you create every day. No matter where you work, bosses will only offer fair treatment when you stand together and demand it."

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Real Solution to the Visa Worker Scam

It has been going for decades. Employers simply lie about STEM worker shortages to get politicians to raise limits on visa workers. Employers then drive down wages by flooding the market with those lower-paid visa workers. Often local workers, who are doing a good job, are forced to train their lower-paid visa worker replacements, before the local workers are laid off.

Of course all this is just another example of corporate greed and political corruption.

Still, I place much of the responsibility for the situation on STEM workers themselves. STEM workers gripe about the situation constantly. STEM workers will blog, tweet, post, and pass links back and forth. But that is about as far as it will go. STEM workers steadfastly refuse to take any real action to fix the current situation.

I suppose STEM workers think that if the public were aware of the injustice of the current situation, then the problem would solve itself. It is surprising that otherwise intelligent people can be so naive.

STEM worker employers, and their lackey politicians, are happy with the situation the way it is. Those who do not see their own jobs being affected by the visa worker scam do not care one way or another. Besides, STEM worker blogs, tweets, and message board posts, can hardly compete with the flood of misinformation coming from the pop-media.

Voting cannot fix the current situation. Practically all politicians side with the corporations. In the USA, there are 435 representatives, and 100 senators. Of those, about three are not pushing for higher limits on visa workers. That is about 0.5%. Practically everybody running for political office, regardless of party affiliation, favors more visa workers.

What STEM workers need to do (but probably won't):

1) Organize. Consider the following two scenarios.

Employer: We are firing you to hire a cheaper visa worker. You need to train you visa worker replacement before you go, or you get no severance.
Employee: I guess I have no choice. I would only hurt myself to resist.


Employer: we are firing you to hire a cheaper visa worker. You need to train you visa worker replacement before you go, or you get no severance.
All employees: you try that and we all walk out, right now.
Employer: never mind, we will not be hiring the visa worker.

STEM workers often hate the idea of organizing, pointing to corrupt unions, and the like. Whether STEM workers like it not: to change the current situation, organizing is critical. If STEM workers are not willing to organize, they should stop the futile complaining.

2) Raise money, lobby congress. In D.C. money talks. Corporations spend huge amounts lobbying congress. So who do you think Congress will side with? Contributing to NumbersUSA might help. NumbersUSA can be an effective organization. But, NumbersUSA is more concerned with the illegal immigration issue than the visa worker scam.

What is needed, is a strong, and well financed, organization of STEM workers. But I feel certain that STEM worker would rather pointlessly gripe about the situation, than to ever do something to change it.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How the hiring process really works

I don't know everything about it, but here are a few lessons I have learned from long experience. I have mentioned some of this before. Of course, this is oriented toward tech jobs.

1) Typically, these three things have nothing to do with one another:
  • the job that is advertised
  • the job you interview for
  • if you get the job, the job you actually do

2) Many advertised jobs do not really exist. Big corporations, and staffing companies, routinely troll for resumes just to keep their databases updated. They want to know who is available, what positions companies hire for, what technologies companies use, and so on.

3) The "wish list" of credentials you see in job ads is not always all that meaningful. The list creators just throw in everything they can think of.

4) When it comes to staffing companies, I have found: the more they want to jerk you around, the less likely they are to actually have a job for you. The best jobs that I have got from staffing companies are the ones where when they  called me at 8:00 PM Friday night, and wanted me to start at 8:00 AM Monday morning. When they want to hire, they hire. When they are just fishing, they jerk you around with "skill assessments" and "meet-and-greet" interviews.

5) Often, the jobs, for which, you seem the least qualified, are the jobs you get. And vice-versa. Employers often ignore your application for the jobs where you nail every requirement.

6) Because of the reasons stated above, I try to avoid lengthy job applications. With the exception below  . . .

7) Government jobs require a lengthy application, and take a long time to hire (long as in months, or even years). But, the jobs may be worth it anyway.  The federal government tends to be less ageist than most civilian employers. The feds also put a bigger emphasis on affirmative action considerations than other employers. However, a big part of the what the feds consider “affirmative action” is about military service.

8) To many employers: your last job matters more than the rest of your employment put together. The pay that you are offered often depends are what you were paid on your last job. If you made $10 an hour on your last job, they will probably offer you $12. If you made $20 on your last job, they will probably offer you $24. Taking a lower paying job can hurt your future salary for years.

9) In technology, recent experience matters much more than experience you gained two, or more, years ago. If you have a valuable skill, but your experience is not very recent, all that valuable experience goes to waste.

10) Many employers are reluctant to hire you for a job, when that job pays less than you were earning on your previous job. The assumption is: you will not be happy with the job they are offering, and you will leave as soon as you find a higher paying job. An exception to this is very short-term contract jobs.

11) Similar to 10 above: no matter how qualified you may be, many employers assume that will not be happy in doing something substantially different from what you were doing at last job.

12) There are few things employers hate worse than "training somebody for their next job." Be aware: training does not necessarily mean any kind of formal lessons. To employers, the time it takes for you to get yourself up-to-speed on your job is considered "training." For example, let's suppose your job involves involves using MS-Excel. Once you get good at that, you become more valuable, and may demand a raise, or leave for another job. Because of this, a stable work history is valued. Employers avoid hiring job hoppers.

13) Usually, experience trumps all other credentials. But, the experience has to recent, professional, and verifiable.

14) Often, credentials that are sought by employers for a particular job, do not make sense. For example, some employers may ask for a degree in Computer Science for a PC tech job. Computer Science is very theoretical, and mathematics oriented. CS involves stuff like algorithm analysis, discrete structures, combinatorics, and the like. That stuff has nothing to do with being a PC tech. Employers may also ask for experience, and certifications, that make no sense for the job being offered.

15) Certifications do matter, and they are a training credential bargain. Even when the certs are not specifically required, or even mentioned. In many cases, employers do not really understand what the certs are about. From my experience: the return on investment (ROI) from certifications is *far* greater than the ROI from college. A few certs, that cost a few hundred dollars each, and take maybe 50 hours of study each; can do more good than a college degree that takes years, and tens of thousands of dollars. You can study for certs on your own, which means you can collect unemployment while studying. Certs combined with experience can be a very worthwhile combination. If the today’s certification environment existed way back when, I would have never wasted my time going to college.

16) Some entry-level IT certs that I might recommend:
  • A+ : when it comes to being a PC Tech, this cert is *it*. This cert is an actual legal requirement for some jobs. Not an especially difficult cert to get.
  • ITIL : one of the easiest certs to get. A requirement, or a prefered credential, for many IT jobs - especially at the larger companies.
  • Security+ : like the A+ can be an actual legal requirement for some IT jobs. More difficult than the A+, but not that difficult. Security is a BFD with many employers right now. IBM being one such employer. The Sec+ is more valuable than the A+, or Network+.
  • Network+ : like the A+, and Security+, can be a legal requirement. This is easier to get than either the A+ or Sec+. Does a decent job of covering the basics of networking. The stuff you learn studying for the Net+ is very useful for other certs, including the Sec+.

17) Skills acquired in an IT job are often not transferrable. Even when the skills acquired in one job are similar to skills required in a job that is being advertised. For example, skills acquired as an AIX UNIX sysadmin, may mean nothing to an employer looking to hire a Solaris UNIX sysadmin.

18) Many skills are too specific to a particular job, at a particular company, to be of much value anywhere else. Still you can claim experience in “tech support” or whatever. Which is better than nothing.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Apple invention or prior art?

“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong”
--- Steve Jobs

“I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”
--- Steve Jobs

"We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We’ve decided to do something about it. We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."
--- Steve Jobs

We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.
--- Steve Jobs

Now Apple is suing over auto-complete. Another entirely origianal Apple invention, I guess.

So what are Apple's greatest mobile device inventions?
  • rectangles
  • round corners
  • flat black screens
  • horizontal speaker slots
  • non-cluttered appearance
  • thin profiles
  • auto-complete
  • slide-to-unlock
  • green phone icon for phone
  • envelop for mail icon
  • gears icon for settings
  • grid layout of icons
  • “Multi-Touch” technology
  • iBooks books on a shelf metaphore
  • fading notifications without user intervention
  • text in bubbles indicated by speaker

Here is what I am finding for possible prior art. I would be interested to know what others think. Please feel free to add anything I'm missing, or correct me if I'm wrong about anything.

Sharp JPN 1241638
I am not certain exactly what device this is, or when it came out. But, I think Europe eventually ruled that the iPhone is a knock-off copy of the Sharp JPN 1241638 and that Apple's D'087 patent violated Sharp's '638 patent. That covered a flat black surface, maybe even rounded corners, and retangle shape.

Samsung SGH-Z610 - February 2006

  • Gesture based multimedia touchscreen
  • app drawer
  • front and rear facing camera
  • rounded corners
  • 16 icons up on a desktop
  • a speaker above the 3.5" touchscreen
  • physical round button w/ a play arrow icon below it

Samsung GridPad 1989

  • seems that Samsung is not new to tablet devices

Samsung Origami Tablet PC 2006


Samsung SGH-F700 - 2007

  • Released after iPhone, but before Apple's 358 page long iPhone patent which was filed on September 5th 2007

Sony Ericsson 2002

  • green phone icon (for that matter, don't phone booths use a phone icon?)
  • envelop mail icon

LG KE850, also known as the LG Prada 2006

  • phone icon
  • envelop mail icons
  • capicitve touch screen
  • what about that icon with the four dots? would that take you to a grid of icons?

Packard Bell Navigator 3.5

  • reminds me of Apple iBooks patents - books on a shelf

Neonode N1m - not sure about the year

  • slide to unlock

Apple's gears icon

  • Oreilley software WebSite had a yellow gear for settings
  • Atari ST in 1986 used a gears icon for the settings control panel
  • Windows 95 used Gears for settings:

The ‘134 patent - text in bubbles indicated by speaker

  • besides ignoring pretty much every comic book ever created, there’s a system called “Habitat” from the 1985 that pretty much like what Apple patented, in terms of the arrangement of text into bubbles, with the horizontal layout being dictated by the speaker.

The ‘915 patent - Multi-touch scrolling and scaling

  • 1994-1995 T3:
  • is this an API patent?

The ’891 patent - fading notifications without user intervention

  • filed in 2002
  • see the Windows 2000 MFC API, and notice that the uBalloonTimeout parameter. That fades out the notification without user interaction.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why IT is perfect for offshoring/inshoring

I don't think I could invent any type of work that is more perfect for
offshoring/inshoring than IT.

1) Unlike manufacturing, you don't have to mess with physical inventory. This is
huge. Shipping costs, and other supply chain costs, can be very substantial.
With IT, everything is done over the internet. Perfect for offshoring.

2) Unlike manufacturing, you don't have to worry about special plants, or
special equipment, special environmental regulations, or worker safety issues.
Just use ordinary computers, and ordinary office space. Dealing with foreign
regulations for building permits, and the like can be a nightmare. With IT, you
don't have to bother with any that. Just rent space in an existing building.
Even if you build your own building, you don't have to bother with all the
special issues that go with manufacturing.

3) Unlike health care, or other fields, you don't have to bother with sort of
special education, or licensing requirements. For example, we can import nurses
from Mexico, they would not be qualified. Health care licensing is regulated by
the state. Nothing like that to worry about with IT, legally, practically
anybody can do practically anything.

4) No unions to fuss with. Replace all the IT workers you want with visa
workers, then send the entire department offshore. No need to worry about union

5) No standardization in IT. You can always tell the government there is a
shortage of qualified workers, since there is absolutely no definition of what
is "qualified." You have a virtual carte blanche to make up any kind of
statistics about salaries, or qualification. For example, you could look for
workers with an arbitrary list of experience requirements, and when you don't
find them, use that as an excuse to hire offshore workers with no experience,
and just a liberal arts degree.

6) US IT workers are not represented by any professional organization, and
therefore have no voice in congress. Dump on IT workers all you want, what's to
stop you?

7) Due to massive corporate propaganda, it is widely believed there is a
shortage of qualified US IT workers, so nobody will blame you for going
offshore. There was significant public outcry in the 1980s when manufacturing
was moved offshore. Michael Moore even created a movie, and Billy Joel wrote a
song. Nobody cares about spoiled IT workers.

8) You can point to contributions made by actual immigrants, and then prentend
that H1Bs are actual immigrants. Great PR.

9) You can place the race card. You can say that anybody critical of replacing
US workers with offshore is a racist, bigoted, and xenophobic; and thereby,
immediately quash any dissention.

10) US IT workers are too spineless, selfish, arrogant, and disorganized, to put
up any sort of meaningful resistance to your offshoring plans. Take your time,
when you start importing visa workers, only the workers who are directly
affected will care. The guy in the next cubical won't care until his head is on
the chopping block. US IT workers have a special trick of sticking their noses
in the air, and their heads in the sand. US IT workers will say: "they could
never do without me. I'm much too valuable. Only the poorly qualified lose their
jobs." Dumping on US IT workers is like shooting fish in a barrel.

11) Significant saving. US IT workers can be quite expensive.

12) Indentured servant status is even more important for IT workers, than other
workers. Everybody's information system setup is different, so it takes a while
for IT workers to learn their jobs. US workers can quit just after they get up
to speed. Which means you are training people for their next job. Worse yet,
they can take what they have learned (on your dime) to your competitors. With
visa workers, they have to stay with you for six years, then you can send them
to your offshore operations.

12) Most IT workers don't work directly with the public, so unlike helpdesk
stuff, you don't have to worry about complaints about accents, or anything like

13) Most of the work can easily be done offshore, and you don't have to be a big
employer to take advantage of it. I cannot hire a plummer for $2 an hour, but I
can go on rentacoder and hire a web-developer for that.

14) Technologies like romoting in, and video confrencing get better all the

Monday, May 30, 2011

Obama appointee to replace US workers with Indian workers

Xerox CEO, an Obama appointee, may send jobs to Indian firm

May 23, 2011:

Xerox Corp., whose CEO Ursula Burns is advising President Obama on exports, last week told its product engineering employees that it is in outsourcing talks with India-based IT services firm HCL Technologies.

Some of the affected Xerox employees may see their jobs transferred to HCL, said a Xerox spokesman, but how many will be affected is not known. Xerox has "hundreds of employees" working in product engineering groups in California, New York, Oregon, the Netherlands and the U.K., the spokesman said.

Burns was appointed last year as vice chairwoman of the President's Export Council, a panel of CEOs advising the Obama administration on how to increase exports, which would lead to an increase in domestic jobs. Boeing CEO and Chairman James McNerney is its chairman.

Burns is outspoken on the need to improve the pool of math and science graduates in U.S. schools. In a recent video interview on CNN , she warned that if graduation rates in these areas don't increase, "we become a server nation; our standard of living must decline."

Burns, in that interview, also argued that there is a dearth of workers who can fill skilled jobs, and when jobs aren't filled, the response from U.S. employers is: "We exported the work."

"The work has to be done, so we send the work to people in other places that can get it done. This is absolutely backwards," Burns said.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Could the H1B work visa be unlawful?

U.S. Code Collection
Inadmissible aliens

(5) Labor certification and qualifications for certain immigrants
(A) Labor certification

(i) In general, any alien who seeks to enter the United States for the purpose of performing skilled or unskilled labor is inadmissible, unless the Secretary of Labor has determined and certified to the Secretary of State and the Attorney General that—

(I) there are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, qualified
(or equally qualified in the case of an alien described in clause (ii)) and available at the time of application for a visa and admission to the United States and at the place where the alien is to perform such skilled or unskilled labor, and

(II) the employment of such alien will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of workers in the United States similarly employed.
(ii) Certain aliens subject to special rule For purposes of clause (i)

(I), an alien described in this clause is an alien who—
(I) is a member of the teaching profession, or
(II) has exceptional ability in the sciences or the arts.

Worth noting:

1) The exception in 1182 relies on the Specialty Occupations list. (Page 2)

Maybe the DOL needs to reexamine the "shortages" in each occupation with hard data.

2)  1182 has been watered down. The phrase "and at the place where the alien is to perform such skilled or unskilled labor" was added by lobbyists -- 1182 used to cover the entire United States.

3) The exception in 1182 was created specifically for the GATS agreement which is more stringent than the conditions in US law.  Again, under GATS, H-1B is a single term 3 year visa with no dual-intent provisions and no extensions.  Stricter layoff conditions etc.

Maybe, if we had the protections written into GATS, we'd be a bit better off.