Machine Intelligence In The Real World
[…] Textio is a text editor that recommends improvements to job descriptions as you type. With it, I can go from a 40th percentile job description to a 90th percentile one in just a few minutes, all thanks to a beautifully presented machine learning algorithm.
I respect Human Resources professionals. Their job can be shitty. But so can their job descriptions. The prospects who know what you mean by “incumbent” are probably too pedantic and detail-oriented to apply to the likely underpaid and/or intellectually vapid position you’re hiring for. The ones who don’t know what you mean don’t actually know what they’re applying to, which makes them terrible prospects.
If machine learning can remedy that, I hope it gains wider use. But I don’t think machine learning is necessary to stop writing the kind of drivel that passes for a job description these days. It’s a classic failure of capitalism: when demand dramatically outstrips supply, quality decreases without consequences to the supplier. This goes for jobs, treatment by employers, and even job descriptions. They were never exactly the pinnacle of eloquence, but I’ve seen a serious decline in the past year or so.
Many legal filings written by attorneys are also full of reader-hostile jargon and nonsense clearly included because the lawyer’s writing professor said it should be included, or because the named partner at their first firm always used it. It’s one of the most infuriating and offensive aspects of modern U.S. professional culture as far I’m concerned:
“We do it this way because we do it this way, because the people before us did it this way, that’s why we do it this way.”
Never, ever say that to me. It triggers an almost instinctual, lizard-brain contempt in me and an assumption that whoever said it is incapable of critical thinking or analytical reasoning, and I can be a real asshole when I think that about someone.
Gabriel García Márquez on life as literature
The recently deceased García Márquez, in an interview published in the winter 1981 issue of The Paris Review:
My mother asked me to accompany her to Aracataca, where I was born, and to sell the house where I spent my first years. When I got there it was at first quite shocking because I was now twenty-two and hadn’t been there since the age of eight. Nothing had really changed, but I felt that I wasn’t really looking at the village, but I was experiencing it as if I were reading it. It was as if everything I saw had already been written, and all I had to do was to sit down and copy what was already there and what I was just reading.
I have never read his work (a sin of literary omission I will soon remedy), but in this story García Márquez perfectly described a sensation I have at least once a week. It’s why I started writing fiction again recently after a long drought.
Go read the rest of the interview, it’s great.
Aggregation is plagiarism
Aggregation is plagiarism:
I couldn’t help but aggregate (though not plagiarize) this link Jim Dalrymple aggregated to a post by a Mr. Joe Wilcox about how aggregation is, well, plagiarism.
It’s true, now that you’ve read this you don’t need to read the original to know what it’s about. However, my guess is you’ll miss out on the personal reasons and nuanced perspective Mr. Wilcox offers if you don’t go and read his post.
I certainly agree with his position, not an uncommon one, that word-for-word copies or close paraphrases are plagiarism plain and simple. But I would term that behavior, well, plagiarism. Aggregation, done right, will collect interesting material to which the collector wants to point his own readers, adding context or perspective or opinion lacking in the original.
John Gruber’s Daring Fireball is a great example of that: it’s comprised almost entirely of links to the work of others, often including quotes from the linked-to article. But it’s as far from plagiarism as you can get. People read Gruber’s site specifically for his opinion on the news of the day. Most of his readers probably find the newsy bits elsewhere, be it on Twitter or another news site. But Gruber’s take adds value, and that’s why they’re there.
I like to think that’s what I’m doing here, but I suppose only readers like you can decide that.
How reality caught up with paranoid delusions
it was not in the least like losing one’s reason… I was rationalising all the time, it was simply one’s reason working hard on the wrong premises.
— novelist Evelyn Waugh, speaking retrospectively of his own psychotic episode
This is a fascinating article, discussing at times the sometimes blurred line between fiction and mania, and generally looking at how paranoid delusions keep impressively abreast of modern technology.
10 great free monospaced fonts for programming
I can understand why programmers may want to consider using a decent font, but it’s worth noting that writers, particularly those who prefer plain text, should also pay attention to the fonts they’re using.
I like to write with a monospace font for two reasons. First, there’s nostalgia in using a monospace font that connects me to the days I spent in college writing on a typewriter. Second, I find them easier to look at for long periods of time than standard serif or sans serif fonts.
If you write often on a computer, you owe it to yourself to be a little picky about the fonts you use.