Thursday, December 21, 2017

Hey, I never saw any job ads from that company! Oh...

When I was last laid off from a job over 25 years ago, one of the ways in which I looked for jobs was to use something called "classified ads." These were short pieces of text, printed on paper, that you could use to learn about available jobs.

Of course, now the technology is a little bit different. I don't even know if printed newspapers even run help wanted ads any more - the last time I saw a newspaper, the classified section was very short. Today, of course, you access job information via the web. Perhaps you go to a company's own website. Perhaps you go to a website that aggregates jobs from different companies.

Or perhaps the jobs come to you.

Maybe you're on a social media service, and you see an add pop up for a job. And because the social media service probably already knows a lot about you - where you live, what your current job is - the service can tailor the ads that it presents to you so that you only see ads that are relevant to you.

Or ads that the employer THINKS are relevant to you.

And therein lies the problem, according to ProPublica:

A few weeks ago, Verizon placed an ad on Facebook to recruit applicants for a unit focused on financial planning and analysis. The ad showed a smiling, millennial-aged woman seated at a computer and promised that new hires could look forward to a rewarding career in which they would be “more than just a number.”

Some relevant numbers were not immediately evident. The promotion was set to run on the Facebook feeds of users 25 to 36 years old who lived in the nation’s capital, or had recently visited there, and had demonstrated an interest in finance.

Cool. What's the problem?

For a vast majority of the hundreds of millions of people who check Facebook every day, the ad did not exist.

Well, so what? If it's a finance job in Washington DC, you're not going to want to show it to bricklayers in Oklahoma. ProPublica is obviously getting silly.

And then they start showing other examples:

In a search for “part-time package handlers,” United Parcel Service ran an ad aimed at people 18 to 24. State Farm pitched its hiring promotion to those 19 to 35.

Ah, perhaps you see the issue now. Age targeting can, in some cases, be illegal.

Now in certain instances age targeting is perfectly legal. The U.S. Army can legally exclude 70 year olds from job recruiting ads.

But it's much more problematic in other cases. Could a 37 year old - or a 57 year old, or a 24 year old - work at Verizon? Could a 25 year old be a part-time package handler for UPS?

Several experts questioned whether the practice is in keeping with the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits bias against people 40 or older in hiring or employment. Many jurisdictions make it a crime to “aid” or “abet” age discrimination, a provision that could apply to companies like Facebook that distribute job ads.

“It’s blatantly unlawful,” said Debra Katz, a Washington employment lawyer who represents victims of discrimination.

And some companies have changed their practices to ensure that they comply with anti-discrimination laws.

After being contacted by ProPublica, LinkedIn changed its system to prevent such targeting in employment ads....

After being contacted by ProPublica and the Times, other employers, including Amazon, Northwestern Mutual and the New York City Department of Education, said they had changed or were changing their recruiting strategies.

“We recently audited our recruiting ads on Facebook and discovered some had targeting that was inconsistent with our approach of searching for any candidate over the age of 18,” said Nina Lindsey, a spokeswoman for Amazon, which targeted some ads for workers at its distribution centers between the ages of 18 and 50. “We have corrected those ads.”

Of course, there are dissenting views on the value of a diverse workforce, including people over the age of 40. The following was written by someone at Brazen in 2009.

We now have youngsters who can’t find jobs not only because this recession sucks, but also because old people are choosing not to retire. They are not retiring because this new generation of “old people” think they will never die due to modern advances in medicine. They are ambitious workaholics who are also too selfish and egocentric to step aside and believe that a younger person could do just a good of a job, if not a better one. They are the first generation who have received so much: peace, prosperity and technology.

And now, they don’t want to give it all up after squandering away our environment and screwing up our market. So next time when you can’t find a job, don’t blame the minority for filling some quota (that is extremely rarely the reason why you don’t get hired); just go ahead and blame the people at the top.

Now that eight years have passed...and another ten years will pass quickly - I wonder if the Brazen writer feels the same way.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Revisiting my nine year old rant on sites that support limited browsers

Back in 2008, when I was working for Motorola, the company needed to ensure that all of its software worked with all of its internal systems. It can take time to test internal systems with new browsers, and as a result, Motorola's "approved" browser at the time was Internet Explorer 6.

This offended certain developers, who adopted an attitude that Ramblings of an Offbeat Mammal expressed in a phrase that I quoted at the time:

If all those folks using a version of any browser older than IE7 could just upgrade, get with the program and do their bit (it’s only a few moments to download and install and it doesn’t even insist on a legal copy of Windows these days!) then developers could concentrate on making great web applications using all the cool Ajax, Silverlight and Javascript features without having to worry about testing a load of different quirky behaviors.

Despite my rather strident opposition to this attitude, I did grant, and still do, that there are costs to supporting multiple platforms, and at the time, the need to support IE6 and IE7 and other browsers could certainly add up. Developers could support a lot of browsers and browser versions and run up those costs, or they could support a limited number of browsers and browser versions and limit their reach.

I could have lived with that, if the developers hadn't adopted the snotty "Why are you using IE6, you imbecile?" attitude. An especially ironic stance, since many of these same people were loudly clamoring that there was no need to upgrade to Windows Vista, and that people should be permitted to stay on Windows XP.

Well, that ridiculousness ended, or so I thought until I visited the new MySpace in 2012 and found that it didn't support any version of Internet Explorer.

You know, I've rarely visited MySpace since. (It didn't help that they deleted my original profile page. But I digress.)

Well, that ridiculousness ended, or so I thought until I read this piece.

Someone tweeted [Airbnb] about an issue with the website. Apparently, it’s impossible to make a reservation in Safari 9.1 The astute members of [The Next Web] know what the issue is here. That particular version of Safari came out in March, 2016. At the time of writing, the most current version of Safari is 11.0.1.

Instead of telling the user to update his browser (which is reasonable), Airbnb told him to install Chrome instead, as the site was “optimized” for it.

(Note: the Airbnb tweet was written in 2016, but as you'll see, Airbnb's current policy isn't much better.)

The story continues.

Another company that’s openly telling users to use Chrome rather than any modern competing browser — like Firefox, Safari, and Opera — is Groupon.

These two companies attracted the Twitter ire of one Jeffrey Yasskin. In a couple of tweets, he implored the two companies to not optimize for a single browser.

Yasskin, by the way, is on the Google Chrome Web Platform team. Perhaps in some weird alternative universe Yasskin would be fired, but Google, Apple, Mozilla, and other web browser developers realize that the secret to browser success isn't to go silo.

And even Airbnb's story has changed over time. Its "get with the program" page says to use the latest versions of Chrome OR FIREFOX. You can use IE9 or higher, but Microsoft Edge, Safari, Opera, and other browsers aren't mentioned at all. The 2016 tweet to which Yasskin responded didn't mention Mozilla, which apparently has now joined Airbnb's "blessed" list. Maybe they'll get around to support Microsoft Edge in a few years.


As I was working on this post over the weekend and tweeting about it, Jordan Harband responded with two tweets:

We definitely support Safari and Edge. Opera is just Blink now, so Opera always === Chrome anyways.

In general, we support ES5+.

Regardless, our internal support policy for engineers is distinct from our general support advice, which *obviously* is “use the latest version of your browser” at a minimum.

Compare this with Behance, which displays "creative work." In order to get more creatives to sign up, Behance has a broader browser support policy:

Behance supports:

Evergreen browsers (supporting the two most recent versions):
Google Chrome
Mozilla Firefox
Microsoft Edge

Other browsers:
Microsoft Internet Explorer 11
Apple Safari, version 8 and above
Opera, limited support for all versions

As for MySpace, it still doesn't support any Microsoft browser or Opera. Of course, this could be considered a security feature, since it limits the ways in which someone can hack into a MySpace account.