The Mismatch Problem

I was watching this video of Malcolm Gladwell’s talk over the weekend and enjoyed every minute of it.  Malcolm has the uncanny ability to look at problems in new ways. He was talking about the challenges in finding the right people to hire in various professions. He calls it the “mismatch problem”   According to Malcolm, the problem exists because:

  1. Our desire for certainty in a world where uncertainty is the norm
  2. The growing complexity of every profession increases mismatch

He points out, how, in various fields from sports to teaching, metrics used to select candidates do not really reflect the reality of the changing requirements of the job.

In software we do the same. We try to measure some of the basic skills like knowledge of software development including programming, conceptual understanding, ability to solve simple problems. The true attributes, however, are more complex and are not easy to measure in a test or in a few interviews. These include the ability to work in a team, ability to learn and communicate, a healthy curiosity and a certain amount of pride in work. Our challenge is to figure out how to train our employees in these  new skills.

Found in a Job Description

This was nice to read. Do you know of any other fragments of cool job ads?

Forrester hires people who are inspired and inspiring. Our people are our product and the source of our intellectual capital, so we welcome and reward intelligence, curiosity, and unconventional thinking.

I am going to add these to the list of The New Skills.

Children of the Petabyte Age

Is it really the End of Theory, as Chris Anderson predicts?

Sixty years ago, digital computers made information readable. Twenty years ago, the Internet made it reachable. Ten years ago, the first search engine crawlers made it a single database. Now Google and like-minded companies are sifting through the most measured age in history, treating this massive corpus as a laboratory of the human condition. They are the children of the Petabyte Age.

At the petabyte scale, information is not a matter of simple three- and four-dimensional taxonomy and order but of dimensionally agnostic statistics.

I do believe, as they say in  AstronomyCast that knowing  “not just what we know but how we know what we know” gives you the ability to reason about hypotheses, models and theories. A new kind of analysis with petabytes of data may lead us down the path. But the examples are far fewer and not very convincing – yet.

I would love to watch this conversation and see where it takes us.

Updated: 1st Jul 08

I did not have to wait long. Here is a great article on Why the cloud cannot obscure the scientific method.

The New Skills?

What are the skills required for handling future jobs?

I found this report  from National Academies Press. A few skills listed in this document include:

  1. Creative Problem Solving
  2. Complex Communication Skills
  3. Adaptability
  4. Self-management
  5. Self-development
  6. Systems thinking

From my experience of working across two continents, I would like to add a few more:

  1. Critical Thinking
  2. Cross cultural training
  3. Curiosity
  4. Inspired and Inspiring (got this from a job ad at Forrester’s research)

I want to dwelve a bit on “Self Management”. I use it as a primary metric to hire people since I do not believe in supervising or managing people. I found that many people who are great at managing themselves do it because they believe in a cause, passionate about what they do or extremely proud of their work.

How do you develop these competencies? Or even explain why they are important? That is the challenge that requires a lot of innovation in teaching or coaching.

Also See:

Malcolm Gladwell on the challenge of hiring in the modern world.


This post was triggered by an email from ACM news about a study done in Ireland. Looking at the study, I felt that some of these problems have global implications. So I started searching on “future skills” India, USA.

LinkLog: Internet – A Resource for Going Green

From Why Internet is an Innovation – our Best Resource for Going Green by Courtney Webster

As an entirely online resource, the Internet can be used to share information across the world, without ever having to waste natural resources. Online bank statements reduce corporate mailings, while websites like allow us to share our pictures without making eco-costly prints. When shopping online, using credit cards and online order confirmation, we save the paper and ink that would other wise be used to print cash and receipts, and without making the trip to the store, we’re reducing our carbon footprint in the process.

There are several businesses that can do this, especially ones with mostly knowledge workers. Courtney points out Project Nvokh, a fascinating effort in going green.

A HeroCamp?

I attended a BarCamp at Chennai last week. I forgot to turn off alerts to the barcamp pbwik and keep getting notifications of new barcamps  I got one on (Super)HeroCamp and it piqued my curiosity. It is one of the more innovative BarCamps I have seen in a while. Here is an excerpt titled “Smaller Ideas” from the page:

The smaller ideas
1. What would it look like if we brought the structure of BarCamp into schools? What about a social network for students, teachers and parents where parents could make sure they could keep up with their kids’ curriculum, teachers could understand a little more about a student’s home situation and students could communicate more on the level that they understand? HeroCampSchoolNet
2. What if we provide local communities with an easy (Ning?) way to create a cross-generational learning network. Schools could tap into locals with expertise, and locals could tap the youth and creativity of students. The retired biologist down the street could help students create and maintain a sustainable organic garden, and students could learn about globalization and teach local businesses how to survive. HeroCampCommunityNet

I am always amazed at the innovative ways tools are used. The concept of BarCamp itself is an innvoative idea. Hosting camp announcements on a public wiki is another. The way the concept of BarCamp is being used builds upon both these. Hats off to people who innovate at every level. This is definitely one of my sources of inspirtation.

Technology Trends

I gave a talk on Technology Trends and Gleaning Opportunities at TiE Chennai today. It was gratifying to hang out with the participants and swap stories. I just uploaded a copy of the presentation (in PDF format). Here is the link –  technology-trends-jun2008

I also uploaded a copy on slide-share. Here is the link to the presentation.

I would love to hear from you. I am going to keep updating this presentation and incorporate suggestions. I am also planning to spend some time expand my list as well as tools for tracking trends.

Technology Trends – A List

Here is a small sample of trends in software.  This is work in progress. I will keep updating it frequently. Instead of waiting till I have my full list, I thought I may just publish this crude list and get some feed back. Some trends are current (like Web 2.0) some of them are future (Semantic Web). Over the next few weeks, I will revisit and keep adding to the list. If you think some thing should be included here, please add your comment. If you have a blog or discussion on trends, you can add that link too. Some of these trends are great blog topics too.

Each trend is an opportunity (or several opportunities). These trends create new jobs, transform existing jobs and the way we live.

Application Development AJAXRich Internet Applications – Microsoft’s Silverlight, Adobe Flex, Open LazloWeb Frameworks – Ruby On Rails, Django

Scripting Languages – Python, Ruby

Parallel Programming – Haskell, Erlang

Database XML databases and XML support in relational databasesNew query languages – SPARQL

New query interfaces to languages – LINQ

Open Data  – Freebase, DbPedia

Streaming Databases, Continuous Query Languages

Web Data Stores – Amazon’s SimpleDB, S3

Information Distribution Podcasting, Screencasting, VideoCasting, Blogs, Wikis, Micro-blogging, Portals, Feed Readers
Information Mining Text AnalyticsA wiki for text analytics
Software Agents
Information Sharing and Collaboration Knowledge ManagementWikis and Portals, Social Bookmarks, Video Conferencing
Information Visualization A Periodic Table Of Visualization Methods
Interaction AIML – Alicebot and othersTouch/Multi-touch/Surface  – iPhone, Microsoft Surface
Laptops for Learning Triggered by the visionary OLPC effort, this is a broad movement that may spark several new trends in cheaper, better laptops and several innovative interfaces for interaction.This leads to a broader trend on mlearning – mobile learning. Learning content on cell phones.
Mashups An easy way to combine services in hours, days, weeks triggered by Web ServicesWatch for  Enterprise Mashups, Mashup Tools, Languages for Mashups
Mobile and Wireless Open Mobile Platforms – ex: AndroidLocation based mobile servicesWiMax, 3G
Mutli-core Intel is promising a 32 core chip by 2010. What do we do with all that power. Where are the programmers and programming tools for leveraging this trend? How can we use a multi-core chip in every device from a PDA to a computer?Parallel Programming – Techniques, Tools, Research, Initiatives
Services Software as a ServicePublishing as a ServiceMentoring as a Service – MentornetKnowledge Sharing Services – Wikipedia, Wikibooks, LibriVox, WikiHow
Services Infrastructure On Demand Computing, Elastic Computing, Cloud Computing  – Amazons ECS, Google’s AppEngine
Search Collaborative Search – Like Wikia
Contextual Search – Yahoo’s Y!Q and Eurekster Swicki Powerset
Semantic Web Semantic Wikis – A wiki on steroids
Linked Data – FreeBase, Twine, DbPedia
Social Applications Is Social networking site a service or infrastructure? Should it be a layer on the web?Social Networks – Facebook.Others to watch OpenSocial, Ning, LinkedIn,Social Networks in the Enterprise,FriendConnect, OpenData, Data Portability, OpenId
Web Services and SOA Web Services are the new breed of application components. Popularized by Amazon, web services are growing at a rapid pace. You can get a list of publicly available services at Programmable Web


Top 10 Disruptive IT Trends – CIO Insight


WebTrends Map 2008 – A clickable Map

MarkMail – a tool for parsing mailing lists and providing trend information

Blogs – Keeping Content Current

I watch my blog stats once in a while (used to be a daily routine once). I notice that there are lots of readers for some of my old posts even though some of them may be outdated. When I noticed this, I stopped covering news on my blogs. I even wrote a post titled Does Currency of Information Matter?

Once in a while, I feel compelled to revisit a post and make some minor adjustments – add some new links or add a comment to updated information. I have been thinking about keeping my posts (at least a few of the popular ones) updated. Here are some ideas.

  1. Keep updating the posts with current information when relevant, but keep a copy of the old version. Obviously we need to use the same permalink (so that people see the latest version), but does that violate the concept of a perma link?
  2. Keep the old blog but change the beginning to link to a new version of the blog
  3. Write a new blog and give a new version number with a link to all the old versions (in case people want to follow entries and comments)

I may try all these different techniques. I am sure that some one already solved this problem. If you did, can you share it here? If not, any thoughts?