August 22, 2009

Uncouth Facebook postings closing doors for job candidates

Some of us had the luck of doing stupid things online before most employers knew what social networking was. (I'll admit it: in my early working days, I said some not-nice things online about some of the people I worked with.) These days, however, those looking for jobs have had many years to build up an unsavory history across the Internet, and employers now know how to do their homework. In fact, nearly half of the employers in the US now search for job candidates on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, according to survey results from CareerBuilder. The job-finding firm said that the numbers reflect a twofold increase over those who reported doing so in last year—45 percent in 2009 versus 22 percent in 2008—and cautioned that many employers choose not to hire based on information they find online.

Facebook was the most popular site for researching job candidates this year—no surprise there, since Facebook has exploded in popularity as of late. "Professional" networking site LinkedIn came in second at 26 percent, MySpace came in third at 21 percent, 11 percent read blogs, and seven percent followed candidates' updates on Twitter. Paranoid yet about any of your recent tweets?

ars technica

August 19, 2009

UBS to hand over names of 4,450 clients to U.S.

The IRS said Americans would no longer be able to evade taxes so easily by hiding their assets in offshore accounts.

The agreement comes as U.S. tax authorities conduct a criminal investigation into Americans who used Swiss bank accounts at UBS to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

The settlement follows demands from the U.S. authorities that the bank hand over details on more than 50,000 customers. According to the settlement, U.S. tax authorities will gain access to 4,450 accounts of Americans who have accounts with UBS, and will drop a lawsuit against UBS in federal court demanding the names.

However, the agency expects to have access to hundreds of additional accounts through other agreements. An IRS official said the total number of names disclosed could be in the "high 5,000s."

"Wealthy Americans who have hidden their money offshore will find themselves in a jam," said IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman. "You can expect us to continue to be aggressive with institutions that are helping Americans avoid taxes."

Market Watch

August 18, 2009

When less is more

WHY is it so many manufacturers cannot leave well alone? They go to great pains to produce exquisite pieces of technology. Then too often, instead of merely honing the rough edges away to perfection, they spoil everything by adding unnecessary bells and whistles and unwarranted girth. In the pursuit of sales, they seem to feel they must continually add further features to keep jaded customers coming back for more. It is as if consumers can’t be trusted to respect the product for what the designers originally intended.

Occasionally, they get it right. When the little Flip Mino camcorder came out a couple of years ago, your correspondent (not an instinctive early adopter) just knew it was something he had to have. What impressed him about the design was not simply the gadget’s diminutive proportions and low price, but the way the developers had so ruthlessly resisted all the marketing pressure to add further features—and had single-mindedly maintained the design’s clarity of purpose. The Flip had one function, and one only—to fit in a shirt-pocket ready to be flipped out in a trice for those fleeting video moments. This it did brilliantly. Though the Flip’s performance has kept pace with technical improvements, subsequent versions have steadfastly maintained the designer’s original concept.

The Economist

For evolving robots, deception is in the genes

Researchers in Switzerland have developed an experimental system that allows them to track the evolution of social cues. The experiments do not, however, involve the Swiss population. Instead, the individuals involved are small-wheeled robots that compete for food and emit light to signal to their neighbors. Evolution occurs because their behavior is controlled by a set of 33 digital "genes." In a paper that will be released later this week by PNAS, the authors describe how these robots evolve to avoid tipping their competitors off to the site of a food source.

These robots and the ecosystem they "live" in is described in a paper they have published previously in Current Biology. The robots themselves have a floor sensor, wheels, a camera, and light that can display different colors. They're set loose in an arena that contains two hubs, one with food that improves their health, and a second with poison that damages it. The hubs look identical from a distance, and can only be distinguished at close range using the floor sensor.

ars technica

August 17, 2009

Amish newspaper succeeds the old-fashioned way


The writers' grievances came in the form of angry letters, carried over bumpy rural roads to the newspaper office serving the Amish community.

In a world where news still travels at a mail carrier's pace, the farmers, preachers and mechanics responsible for filling The Budget threatened to go on strike if the 119-year-old Amish weekly went ahead with its plan to go online.

The writers, known as scribes, feared their plainspoken dispatches would become fodder for entertainment in the "English," or non-Amish, world. The editors hastily rescinded the plan shortly after proposing it in 2006, and today, only local news briefs appear on The Budget's bare-bones Web site.

"My gosh, they spoke in volume," said Keith Rathbun, publisher of The Budget, a newspaper mailed to nearly 20,000 subscribers across the U.S. and Canada. "I'd be a fool to not pay attention to it."

Far from impeding the newspaper's success, shunning the Internet actually solidified its steadfast fan base.

Yahoo Tech

The Law of Accelerating Returns

"An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense "intuitive linear" view. So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century -- it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). The "returns," such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There's even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity -- technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light."

The Law of Accelerating Returns, Ray Kurzweil

Quitting cigarettes oldschool