Wednesday 13 July, 2022

Seeing to infinity and beyond

From Tortoise Media’s indispensable daily Sensemaker newsletter…

This image, the first produced by the James Webb telescope, “shows the infrared light put out by galaxies formed over 13 billion years ago, which appear as red smudges. To think about: the picture covers a patch of sky equivalent to holding up a grain of sand at arm’s length.”

Which kind of puts our mortal coil (not to mention the nauseating Tory ‘leadership’ race) in perspective.

Quote of the Day

”He was born to be a salesman. He would be an admirable representative of Molly Royce. But an ex-King cannot start selling motor-cars.”

  • The Duchess of Windsor on her husband, the former Edward VIII

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Strauss | Four Last Songs | #4 | Im Abendrot | Reneé Fleming | BBC Proms 2001


I love these songs, and keep coming back to them.

Long Read of the Day

Mark Twain, Tech Prophet

The Atlantic (to which I subscribe) has just made its entire archive — 165 years of Atlantic journalism — available online. Nearly 30,000 articles, reviews, short stories, and poems, published between magazine’s founding in 1857 and 1995, the year it launched its website (a site that included, from its start, articles that originated both in print and on the web) are now accessible to subscribers, researchers, students, historians, “and that blessed category, the incurably curious”.

David Graham’s been digging in the archive and thinks that a short story by Mark Twain published a 1878 issue may contain the first literary reference to a telephone — “along with striking insights into modern dating”.

The Times Literary Supplement’s always amusing NB column—which also unearthed this image of Proust playing air guitar on a tennis racket—has been searching for literary firsts, such as the earliest mention of a telephone. TLS readers came up with Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, which premiered in May 1878. But Mark Lasswell of The Weekly Standard came up with an even earlier reference: Twain’s “The Loves of Alonzo Fitz Clarence and Rosannah Ethelton,” a short story that The Atlantic published in its March 1878 issue. As Lasswell notes, that makes it just 24 months after Alexander Graham Bell was awarded the first patent for a telephone.

The story is weird enough to deserve more than a mere footnote for early phone adoption…

Do read on

My commonplace booklet

”How to streamline the hiring process” is an article by Atta Tarki, Tyler Cowen and Alexandra Ham in the Harvard Business Review. If you’ve ever been involved in making hiring decisions (and I have been over the last two years in particular) you’d sometimes wish that some of your colleagues took these rules (suggested by the authors) to heart.

  1. Reduce the number of interviewers in your process. If you have more than four or five interviewers, chances are that the costs associated with the additional complexity in your process have exceeded the benefits they produce.

  2. Be explicit about whose decision it is. Steer your organizational culture away from a consensus-oriented approach. Instead, for each role make it explicit whose decision it is, who else might have veto power, and that other interviewers should not be offended if a candidate is hired despite not getting their approval. And then keep repeating this message until most of your colleagues adapt to this new approach.

  3. Ask interviewers to use numerical ratings when evaluating candidates. We’ve experienced that doing so helps hiring committees focus on the holistic view rather than on one-off negative comments. Having interviewers submit their ratings before getting input from their colleagues will have the further benefit of reducing the chance of groupthink in your evaluations.

  4. Remove the “Dr. Deaths” from your hiring committee. Track which interviewers turn down the most candidates, and if they are not better at picking good hires, communicate with them that they will be removed from the hiring committee if they don’t correct their behavior.

  5. Change your culture to reward those who spot great hires, not penalizing those who end up with an occasional poor performer. You can further do this by emphasizing the difference between good decisions and good outcomes. Sometimes a fully logical bet will result in a poor outcome. If needs be, call out those spreading negativism.

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