Code is up

… on Github.

github-logo

Got around to putting my most useful programming projects up on Github.com. You can now easily get the newst versions, repost bugs, read the source code and fork the code to make your own version.

The projects that are up so far are:

  • npcg – the random encounters and NPC generator for the AMAR RPG
  • hyperlist.vim – the VIM plugin to easily and effectively manage HyperListS
  • hypergraph – the tool to make graphical representations of HyperListS
  • mailfetch – collect mail from different imap accounts, filter and store locally
  • imaptools – Client-side tools for imap mail
  • pc41 – Facilitating serial/USB connection to an HP-41 calculator

The next project up will probably be my collection of HP-41 programs found on this site.

Update (2015-08-28): I have now put all my relevant HP-41 related programs up on my Github page. The pages and links on this site is now updated to point to my Github projects.

The case against patents

Thomas Jefferson once said:

Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices.

Copyleft-All-wrongs-reserved

And the debate on patents are more relevant than ever. Big companies suing each other for billions has become commonplace. Collecting patents to fuel an arsenal of defensive legal leverage, tip-toeing the mine field of patents when trying to invent something new, using patents to stifle competition rather than innovate, forging patents alliances that centralizes power and keeps the smaller players off the playing field. The list goes on. And the net value is hardly innovation incentive.

I want to bring to your attention an article that details the economic effects of patents (link to the full article). The abstract reads:

The case against patents can be summarized briefly: there is no empirical evidence that they serve to increase innovation and productivity, unless productivity is identified with the number of patents awarded—which, as evidence shows, has no correlation with measured productivity. Both theory and evidence suggest that while patents can have a partial equilibrium effect of improving incentives to invent, the general equilibrium effect on innovation can be negative. A properly designed patent system might serve to increase innovation at a certain time and place. Unfortunately, the political economy of government-operated patent systems indicates that such systems are susceptible to pressures that cause the ill effects of patents to grow over time. Our preferred policy solution is to abolish patents entirely and to find other legislative instruments, less open to lobbying and rent seeking, to foster innovation when there is clear evidence that laissez-faire undersupplies it. However, if that policy change seems too large to swallow, we discuss in the conclusion a set of partial reforms that could be implemented.

The article is an excellent read and complements the book, “Against Intellectual Monopoly“.

Also check out Johanna Blakley’s neat TED talk on the same:

Personality tests and recruitment

Personality tests are frequently used as a tool in recruitment. There are pros and cons to using such tests.

I was the CEO of U-MAN in Norway from 1990 till 2000. The company’s main product was selling the Oxford Capacity Analysis as a tool in recruitment for our clients. The OCA test is controversial because it is used by the Church of Scientology and licensed from the Church of Spiritual Technology and 6% of the income from test sales is funneled to the Church of Scientology conglomerate. U-MAN, a WISE company, has later changed its name to Performia. The company has moved its testing online like so many other companies selling personality tests, IQ tests etc.

While I go into greater details regarding both WISE, U-MAN and the OCA test in my book “Nittenåttifire“, I would like to accentuate a few points here.

The OCA test is originally a fork of the Johnson Temperament Analysis (now the T-JTA). Before 1954, Hubbard used many different personality tests to validate changes and progress people had with Scientology therapies. Julia Salmen, an employee of the Church of Scientology in LA was asked by L. Ron Hubbard to come up with a personality test that would be free for Scientology to use. She started out with the JTA and added one personality trait (Certain – Uncertain) – a smart improvement as it enhanced the value of the JTA by adding an internal consistency check of sorts. The OCA test has 10 personality traits with 20 questions determining each trait (the JTA has 180 questions and 9 traits). It may be doubtful that this change actually constitute enough “new work” to void any copyright claims of the JTA.

While the JTA (and OCA) was designed as a general personality test, such tests are also frequently used as a complimentary tool in job interviews. But there is a liability in such use. A similar liability is evident when the employer relies on school grades when recruiting for a position.

When an interviewer has a candidate in front of him, her grades from school and a personality test result with scores and a nice graph, he tends to overemphasize the grades and the test results. Because it has numeric values. The numbers tend to eclipse his own observations. The candidate fades to the background while the grades and scores grabs attention. I know this both from my own recruitment processes and from watching other interviewers. I did more than 6000 test evaluations/interviews, I supervised hundreds of interviews done by others. Whenever there is a test score on the table, it takes center stage.

The OCA test is a really good test. But personality is seldom the main factor in job performance. We would often be surprised when we tested a team of people only to find out that the top performer had the worst test for the job. He could be completely unstructured, irresponsible in life, a nervous wreck and even shy. Still he was the best sales person in the company. When we focused only on selling and evaluating OCA tests, we recommended the wrong candidate for the job maybe 20-30% of the time. As we improved our recruitment services, adding tests for competence, structured interviews, better reference checking, etc. we managed to get as high as 97,4% success rate (checked with the client 18 months after placement). But – and here comes the big BUT – I am sure we missed some fantastic candidates in the process. The most amazing people have quirks, eccentricities. Some are even raving mad by normal standards.

One should be cognizant of the tools one uses. One should master the tools and never let the tools take center stage. People should be the focus of attention.

For what it’s worth, I leave you with a book I wrote while I worked in U-MAN – The Evaluator’s Bible.

In the next blog post, I will relate a recent story of a very different interview I had with an amazing person.

Checklist for creating a cult

  1. Make it your first policy to “Maintain friendly relations with the environment and the public.”
  2. Create some free or very cheap introductory service that give the public real gains
  3. Disseminate the introductory service widely, attracting many prospects
  4. Ensure every person that takes the introductory service feel indebted
  5. Sign the person up for more expensive service
  6. Make sure the service give real gains, lest people will leave
  7. Preferably advertise gains to be had that you cannot deliver, keeping the person always wanting the next service level
  8. Keep the atmosphere light and fun while the person invest increasingly more money and time
  9. Make the person feel special, as part of an elite society
  10. Enforce a policy that no one can talk about or discuss anything negative about the service
  11. Make up a good reason for this
  12. Ensure the person gets pot committed
  13. Increase the pressure, gradually squeezing the person for more time and money
  14. Have some confidential service that only the most pot committed and elite members can have
  15. Make sure the service levels end with the person being fully committed, more committed than to his day job, other petty interests, friends and family
  16. Tell the person that the next, unreleased level will only be released when some insane target is met
  17. You will then have a slave on your hand
  18. Back all this up by a rigid, authoritarian organizational structure
  19. Make sure everything is laid down in iron clad policy, removing the slightest inclination toward creativity or individual initiative
  20. Micromanage, measure every detail, come down hard on non-compliance and non-conformity in the organization
  21. Trademark everything, create a monopoly on the services, stamp out any competition
  22. Never defend against any criticism, always attack the critic by Argumentum ad Hominem, discredit always
  23. Amass enough money to litigate the hell out of any external threats
  24. Internal threats are handled with a policy on disconnection that makes the pot committed disconnect even from his own family
  25. Puff it all up with an apparency of social benefit programs
  26. Engulf the whole in excellent PR and glamorous videoed events with CGI effects
  27. Make it unassailable by calling it a religion
  28. As the guru, rake in money, live a glorious life


(Hugh at Gapingvoid.com)

Feel free to ask

q

When the traffic gets high, when posts get more than 500 or even a 1000 comments, I am bound to miss questions from my readers.

I want to answer your questions, and to ensure you are not left without an answer, I propose you ask any questions you may have to me as comments to this blog post.

Just add your question as a comment here and I will get back to you with an answer. Ask anything – from my views on life, IT, Scientology, my favorite HP calculator, music, art, preferences in any part of life or whatever else you may have on your mind. Do not hold back. I am not shy.

This post is not an arena for long discussions – or I may again miss some questions buried in long threads. Interesting topics may instead earn separate blog posts.

Amazing person: Egil Möller

While we’re in the technical territory…

I know a guy who can whip up a prototype of any IT application in a few hours. Others plan and work it out on the drawing board and go “figure-figure” for days until they finally start coding.

Egil simply DOES. He’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve met – and he transfers that intelligence to a sharp understanding of the problem at hand. And with swift creativity and ability to think outside the box, he’s a virtual geyser of ideas, solutions and new ways to go about the task.

A folk music dancing and singing, vegetarian geek with a warm heart and hard core personal integrity. Egil is a die-hard freedom enthusiast fighting for freedom of speech, expression and sharing. We share a world view when it comes to intellectual property, but are very different in our views on the reason for life. That has made for some interesting and valuable discussions over the years.

Egil is the technical lead on the amazing product Etherpad.

My wife and I sold our company in February – I really miss Egil, I cringe when I realized what people he now works for.

It would be great to work with Egil again sometime in the future.