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Chart of the Day: Never Believe Corporations. Never.

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Matt Yglesias points me today to an elegant recent study of the job market. As you know, the business community has been grousing for years that they simply can’t find people who are qualified for all the complex new jobs they have on offer. This is known as a “skills gap,” sometimes referred to as “structural unemployment.” The response of liberal economists has typically been to tell employers that they just need to raise wages: if they pay more, then people with stronger skills will apply for their jobs. Employers moan that this is just unpossible.

Now along come Alicia Modestino, Daniel Shoag, and Joshua Ballance to look at things a different way. Their approach is so simple I’m surprised they’re the first, but apparently they are. All they did was analyze an online database of job offerings to find out whether employers made their hiring requirements stricter when unemployment was high and they could be more selective about who they hired. Do I even have to tell you the answer?

As unemployment went up during the Great Recession, businesses began requiring more experience and more education. The share of job offerings requiring a college degree nearly doubled and the share requiring more than four years of experience increased by two-thirds. Only when the unemployment rate went back down to 7 percent did employers finally start relaxing their requirements a bit.

The bottom line is that employers had a hard time finding qualified workers because they had consciously decided to get pickier about who they were willing to hire. With lots of college grads out of work and getting desperate, they figured they might as well try to pluck a few them out of the job pool, a phenomenon the authors call “opportunistic upskilling.” And note that they weren’t paying any more than they did with old job requirements, either.

Now, if you’re a sophisticated consumer of time-series data like this, your first question is whether the whole thing is just a coincidence. It’s not a whole lot of data points, after all. However, the answer appears to be no. The authors also did a state-by-state analysis, and they found that states with higher unemployment rates reliably produced more selective job requirements. They also found that when large numbers of veterans re-entered the job market after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, it produced the same effect even though the troop drawdown was unrelated to the broader job market. Overall, they find that deliberately tightening job requirements probably accounted for about a quarter of the alleged skills gap.

And what accounts for the rest? We don’t know. Some if it is simply that employers weren’t willing to pay enough to get the people they wanted. And some of it is real. There are certain industries that really do require substantially higher skills than in the past, and they have a hard time finding workers because the educational system hasn’t yet caught up to them.

My take on all this is to repeat something I’ve said before: Never believe corporations. Period.¹ Don’t believe them when they say the “jury is still out” about the danger of the chemicals they produce. Don’t believe them when they say environmental regulations will put them out of business. Don’t believe them when they claim that they’ll hire more people and boost their fixed investment if Congress will pass tax cuts. And don’t believe them when they say they just can’t find people to take their jobs. Most of them just need to stop goosing their hiring requirements and increase their pay rate a bit. Problem solved.

¹I should add that you shouldn’t automatically believe the opposite of what corporations say, either. Simply treat their pronouncements as null data, sort of like the pleas of a coke addict who you know will say anything to get a few bucks from you. Just ignore the chatter and make up your mind based on all the other evidence available.

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jimwise
11 days ago
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Deciphering the Postcard Sized Raytracer

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Fabien Sanglard:

This time Andrew produced something a little bit more verbose but with a much more interesting visual result. Since I was done with my Game Engine Black Books about Wolf3D and DOOM, I had the time to take a deep look at the internals of his mysterious code. I rapidly found myself mesmerized by the techniques I discovered. They diverged drastically from Andrew’s previous work based on a “standard” raytracer. It was an interesting experience to learn about ray marching, constructive solid geometry functions, montecarlo/path tracing rendering, and the many tricks he used to pack everything within such a small area.

Previously: Business Card Raytracer.

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jimwise
23 days ago
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Massive Ad Fraud Scheme Relied on BGP Hijacking

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This is a really interesting story of an ad fraud scheme that relied on hijacking the Border Gateway Protocol:

Members of 3ve (pronounced "eve") used their large reservoir of trusted IP addresses to conceal a fraud that otherwise would have been easy for advertisers to detect. The scheme employed a thousand servers hosted inside data centers to impersonate real human beings who purportedly "viewed" ads that were hosted on bogus pages run by the scammers themselves­ -- who then received a check from ad networks for these billions of fake ad impressions. Normally, a scam of this magnitude coming from such a small pool of server-hosted bots would have stuck out to defrauded advertisers. To camouflage the scam, 3ve operators funneled the servers' fraudulent page requests through millions of compromised IP addresses.

About one million of those IP addresses belonged to computers, primarily based in the US and the UK, that attackers had infected with botnet software strains known as Boaxxe and Kovter. But at the scale employed by 3ve, not even that number of IP addresses was enough. And that's where the BGP hijacking came in. The hijacking gave 3ve a nearly limitless supply of high-value IP addresses. Combined with the botnets, the ruse made it seem like millions of real people from some of the most affluent parts of the world were viewing the ads.

Lots of details in the article.

An aphorism I often use in my talks is "expertise flows downhill: today's top-secret NSA programs become tomorrow's PhD theses and the next day's hacking tools." This is an example of that. BGP hacking -- known as "traffic shaping" inside the NSA -- has long been a tool of national intelligence agencies. Now it is being used by cybercriminals.

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jimwise
23 days ago
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Neat
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New Bar in [Town]

jwz
1 Comment and 4 Shares
Who else is excited for the new cocktail bar?

It's a new venture by [notable local restaurateur], the owner of [famous upscale bar], [spin-off of famous upscale bar], and [spin-off of the spin-off] -- so you know it's going to be good. The bar will feature inventive cocktails with a local twist, including hand-made [ingredient] from [local boutique food business]. There will also be a limited food menu of "small bites", including such delights as [unexpected meat] sliders and Sriracha [something].

The building's previous tenant is gone but not forgotten -- there are plenty of cheeky references to [charming relic business] in the decor and cocktail names. They have a drink called The [the street it's on], and another one named after [famous person in local lore]. They also reportedly serve a [neighborhood name], which is like a Manhattan, but with [unnecessary twist] instead of [what it should be]. Intriguing.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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jimwise
27 days ago
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Lol
reconbot
23 days ago
I'd go there
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Facebook Shared Personal Information With Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, and Others

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Staggering report by New York Times reporters Gabriel J.X. Dance, Michael LaForgia, and Nicholas Confessore:

The exchange was intended to benefit everyone. Pushing for explosive growth, Facebook got more users, lifting its advertising revenue. Partner companies acquired features to make their products more attractive. Facebook users connected with friends across different devices and websites. But Facebook also assumed extraordinary power over the personal information of its 2.2 billion users — control it has wielded with little transparency or outside oversight.

Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.

The social network permitted Amazon to obtain users’ names and contact information through their friends, and it let Yahoo view streams of friends’ posts as recently as this summer, despite public statements that it had stopped that type of sharing years earlier.

It’s tempting to file this under “Yeah, yeah, another Facebook privacy story, blah blah blah”, but this report is truly scathing, and worth a thorough read. Regulators should start thinking about breaking this company up.

And these other companies that used this data from Facebook need to answer for this. This is immoral, if not illegal, and everyone knows it.

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jimwise
31 days ago
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Control Keys

jwz
1 Comment and 2 Shares
All of this:

blarg: "I spend a lot of time thinking about keyboards, and I wish more people did."

I'm not even mad about the letter layout -- you do you, Dvorak weirdos -- but that we give precious keycap real estate to antiquated arcana and pedestrian novelty at the expense of dozens of everyday interactions, and as far as I can tell we mostly don't even notice it.

  • This laptop has dedicated keys to let me select, from levels zero to three, how brightly my keyboard is backlit. If I haven't remapped control to caps I need to twist my wrist awkwardly to cut, copy or paste anything.

  • I've got two alt keys, but undo and redo are chords each half a keyboard away from each other. Redo might not exist, or the key sequence could be just about anything depending on the program; sometimes all you can do is either undo, or undo the undo?

  • On typical PC keyboards Pause/Break and Scroll Lock, vestigial remnants a serial protocol of ages past, both have premium real estate all to themselves. "Find" is a chord. Search-backwards may or may not be a thing that exists depending on the program, but getting there is an exercise. Scroll lock even gets a capslock-like LED some of the time; it's that important! [...]

  • "Ins" -- insert -- is a dedicated key for the "what if delete, but backwards and slowly" option that only exists at all because mainframes are the worst. Are there people who toggle this on purpose? Has anyone asked them if they're OK? I can't select a word, sentence or paragraph with a keystroke; control-A lets me either select everything or nothing.

    Finally, SysRq -- short for "System Request" -- gets its own button too, and it almost always does nothing because the one thing it does when it works -- "press here to talk directly to the hardware" -- is a security disaster only slightly obscured by a usability disaster. [...]

Anyway, here's a list of how you remaps capslock to control on various popular OSes, in a roughly increasing order of lunacy:

  • OSX: Open keyboard settings and click a menu.

  • Linux: setxkboptions, I think. Maybe xmodmap? Def. something in an .*rc file somewhere though. Or maybe .profile? Does gnome-tweak-tool still work, or is it called ubuntu-tweak-tool or just tweak-tool now? This seriously used to be a checkbox, not some 22nd-century CS-archaeology doctoral thesis. What an embarrassment.

  • Windows: Make a .reg file full of magic hexadecimal numbers. You'll have to figure out how on your own, because exactly none of that documentation is trustworthy. Import it as admin with regedit. Reboot probably? This is ok. This is fine.

  • iOS: Ive says that's where the keys go so that's where the keys go. Think of it as minimalism except for the number of choices you're allowed to make. Learn to like it or get bent, pleb.

  • Android: Buy an app. Give it permission to access all your keystrokes, your location, your camera and maybe your heart rate. The world's most profitable advertising company says that's fine.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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jimwise
32 days ago
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lolll (the how part)
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