My Favorite Interview Question

meeting-room-1213007-1598x1069When I moved to Colorado and was looking for a job in the MultiValue world, I saw an ad in the local paper for a position doing Technical Training for Unidata and promptly applied for the job. My resume showed that I had held positions doing programming, system administration and technical training in a related environment so I was called in for an interview.

After answering simple questions such as could I really write a program in the server side integrated language (yes),  was I comfortable speaking to large groups of people (yes), and was I sure I would be OK commuting 55 miles one way to downtown Denver (yes), I was passed to the next phase of interviews.

While I don’t remember all of the questions, I do remember one very clearly: “What would you do if you had an excellent, very productive employee and you found out they were using pirated software?” It was interesting because a) I wasn’t interviewing for a management position and b) my answer appeared to surprise the interviewer.

Here was my answer: Well, I guess I would want to find out if the pirated software was something the employee used to achieve their productivity. If so, I would admonish them for pirating it, then buy them a legal copy. If not, I would admonish them for pirating it, then ask them to remove it and review the company policies.

How would you have answered this question? What interesting interview questions have you been asked?

Things I want from my Kindle

Since as I pointed out, some books and reading material are more flipping material than reading material, I have been thinking about what my Kindle could do to help. You’re welcome, Amazon.

Travel books are not read from start to finish in a linear fashion. They are more like magazines or newspapers. And so my suggestion is that we should be able to read them like a newspaper or magazine where you have a navigation aid at the bottom and a View Articles & Sections button as shown below:

Navigation at the bottom of a magazine article
Section and Articles Navigation

So, in travel book about Italy, the Sections would be Venice, Rome, Florence and the Articles would be Planning Your Time, Orientation, Tourist Info, Arrival, etc. Instead of this:

Table of Contents from a travel guide to Italy
Chapter Links should become Articles

I truly don’t care what % of the way through I am or what page most of the time in this kind of book.  This technique might be useful for fiction books as well. At a minimum letting you see Chapter titles and easily move among them. For technical books, you might truly use the more detailed TOCs with sub-headings etc. So in a book on HTML5 might have various sections(e.g. Inserting Video into Your Web Design) within which there would be articles (Creating the video, Converting the Video to Ogg Format, Embedding the Video, Adding Audio, Summary), for example.  For cookbooks, Sections would be: Appetizers, Entrees, Desserts with articles of “Crabcakes, Fried Dumplings, etc. in the Appetizers Section.

As I use the View Sections & Articles menus, I can easily skip to the sections and articles I want to see. Call it an Interactive Table of Contents, if you will. I would make perusing non-linear books a lot easier.

And as an added bonus, I would LOVE to mark the articles as favorites or tag them in some way and be able to say show me only my favorites, or show me only my “Venice” tagged articles.  So though I have a whole travel book on Italy, I”m not going to every city mentioned so I could get it to show me just the cities I’m interested in.  Or just the information on hotels in the cities I marked as favorites. That would make travel books so much easier to navigate.  And no, the “search” capability doesn’t give you the ease of navigation I need, nor does the View Marks & Notes function. I’ve tried those to make it easier but it really doesn’t cut it. This “View Only” toggle function lets me make my own custom book showing just the bits I need: just those cities, or just those recipes.

And one again, you’re welcome Amazon (and non-linear book publishers).

Disclaimer: Screen shots above of are from Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine and Rick Steves Italy 2011 respectively and the people who wrote and published them are the copyright holders. I myself am not a lawyer–just using these screen shots to show you what I mean.

Flipping Reading

As a longtime Kindle user, one of the first books I got for the Kindle was a travel book. I thought this would be an ideal fit. I’m *traveling* and not carrying a big, thick travel guide. Turns out the Kindle wasn’t then and isn’t now an ideal way to read a travel book. That said, I’ve bought travel fiction and other fiction and non-fiction and found it to be a fine and wonderful thing to be able to carry thousands of books in a small, light format with a long lasting battery.

As a recent iPad user, I’ve been enjoying reading magazines on the iPad. It is an ideal fit for magazines in some ways, given the importance of visuals, layout and the ability to flip easily back and forth with the famous iOs flick and scan interface (fingerprints, be damned!). Faves so far: Vanity Fair, Esquire, New Yorker (loved the Department of Explanation video with Jason Schwartzman)

This got me to thinking…the reason the iPad is good for mags is that you don’t usually (well I don’t usually) read them page by page in a linear fashion. You flip back and forth, you open at random, you go directly to the the table of contents and from there to the article you want to read. Plus with some enhanced content you can have video, links to web sites, the ability to buy things directly from iPad catalogs (only a few now, but the possibilities are exciting). Of course, occasionally the iPad app loses its mind and refuses to stay open–then I have to delete and re-install it. I’m not bitter.

So, it occurred to me, that this is precisely the problem with travel books and Kindles–it’s really not a flip back and forth sort of UI. It’s a start on page 1 and proceed to the end–an immersive reading experience. Travel books, you have pictures, you flip, you scan, you go to the TOC and then directly to a section. I didn’t find any travel book apps in the app store but perhaps iBooks (I haven’t gone there yet, I’m kind of exclusive with that Kindle guy).

Still to my surprise, I got an issue of the New Yorker on my Kindle to compare it side by side with the iPad New Yorker app version and did not get the result I was expecting. An article by David Sedaris on language in the July, 2011 issue was the guinea pig. On the iPad I could play an audio file of David reading an excerpt from the article and I flipped through the rest of the article quickly. On the Kindle, I actually read the WHOLE article and I was able to highlight and share a quote easily. Also I could read it one-handed on my exercise bike. Flippin’ A,  that was not how I thought this would turn out.

New Yorker: Kindle v iPad

Well, digustibus non disputatem, as they say… It’s good to have both options and its good to have plain old print sometimes. But I’m not paying 2-3X for a magazine subscription in any case. I’ll probably stick to the iPad for now for this magazine… until my (rumored) Kindle Tablet comes along anyway…

But I still have to figure out the eTravel Book solution…more when I find out more…. Meanwhile…here’s the New Yorker Cartoons side by side:

New Yorker Cartoon: Kindle v iPad