Game show data

That's been a very long break, so here goes.

 I'm curious how many reality and game shows have available data online. Was watching The Voice and trying to figure out if judges who turn their chairs late in the audition have a lower chance of winning contestants they're interested in; if Adam Levine turns around a minute in, and Blake Shelton turns around two minutes in, how much better are Adam's odds compared to Blake's?

That ignores artificial and hidden effects; if the producers have told the judges to do something, that's hidden to the audience. "Two of you must turn around for this contestant", or somesuch. But those might not happen, and aren't something you can control for based on external data.

 But the really neat thing about reality shows and/or game shows is that all of the primary data is just right there; you can watch the shows and just measure what you're interested in learning about. In this case, someone already did the analysis, so I don't have to; the second judge has about four seconds to turn around, and if they don't, they only have a 17% chance of winning. Ouch!

 Now, if someone has the data from the wheel spins on the Price Is Right, I'm super curious if the odds of getting $1 are neutral, or if the wheel's been weighted. :-)

Google's TGIF

At any large enough company, people on projects far from yours make decisions that occasionally look like idiocy.

Assuming they passed the same interview process that you did, there's a pretty good chance that the person who made that decision is reasonably smart.  But human nature being what it is, we forget that, and sometimes assume the worst.  Cries of "why would they do that?", "don't they realize that's dumb?", and "that's the worst idea ever!" abound.  But due to the nature it's a big place, the decisionmaker can't possibly answer the criticisms individually, morale sucks all around, and employees on other teams are more likely to leave than to transfer to the team they now think is spending their efforts Doing Something Dumb.

Google started an event called TGIF when it was a tiny company.  The idea was that late Friday afternoon, everyone got together and talked shop.  It it's current incarnation, someone picks a topic (Android, Chrome, Self Driving Cars, Benefits), and then the five or so most knowledgeable people on the topic have half an hour to explain what they've done since last time they took the stage.  They're joined by one or two of the founders.

And this is where it goes outside my experience in industry; the founders and experts spend another half hour taking live questions, from an engineer-voted list.  About one question in four comes unscripted from a live microphone.  No question - no matter how awkward - is taboo.  The rules are really simple; speak your mind, but don't be rude.  There's occasionally an answer that's not really satisfying... but that's the rare exception instead of a regular occurrence.  The audience is engineers-only, which lets them talk freely about topics that would be management-only at other organizations.  And employees who ask really hard public questions of managers (and the CEO!) aren't punished for it.


The effect is stellar; instead of having the issue of decisions on the far end of the company occasionally looking like idiocy... everyone has the chance to get the *context* for those decisions; odd choices start looking like works of genius once everyone knows why they did what they did.


Instead of the size of the company becoming something that divides people and slowly eats away at morale, engineers know what's going on, why it's going on, and a good bit of what's coming next.  It keeps folks happier, which makes for harder workers and helps keep attrition notably low.

It has some flaws, but overall?  Aces on this cultural landmark.

Interviewing Tips, Again

So, related advice I give to both interviewers and interviewees. Interviewers: If you give a candidate a question that has several answers, they might say "well, we can do A, B, or C. Let's try B." At that point, politely stop them and make them pick a different path. If they chose B, it means they probably know B the best of any of the choices; if they can knock A or C out of the park, they would have done at least as well with their own choice. You get much better signal about a candidate when you (gently!) knock them out of their comfort zone. Push candidates away from near-certain success; it's not worth your time or theirs. Interviewees: Some interviewers will intentionally knock you out of your comfort zone, and since their are a lot of folks with asbergers in technology, even if they think they're being nice... sometimes, they really aren't. Roll with it; every good interview is going to push you out of your comfort zone, and you're not always supposed to succeed at everything they ask. (It's nice if you do, but honestly, almost never, ever required to get the job.) Be aware that interviewers may nudge you on the hard path, and don't give up until you get a call telling you to do so a few weeks later.