Monthly Archives: September 2008

Google’s 10^100 “Contest”

Google’s 10^100 “contest” sounds like a pretty cool concept. Basically it’s crowdsourcing ideas for the best ways to help the most people, then $10 million dollars from Google goes to fulfilling those ideas.

I put “contest” in quotation marks because the media seems to be portraying the thing as “submit a great idea and win $10 million!” But that’s not really the case at all. The “winners” of the process will win nothing (except “good karma” as Google explains) and the job of making the ideas into reality will go to some organization chosen through an RFP process. So really, the people who will benefit from the ideas (and whichever organizations get the $$$) are the real “winners.”

I guess this process makes the most sense, but I have questions about how an organization would be chosen (it’d need to be done very fairly, non-biased to US-centric ideas, non-imperialistic in origin or intent). Also, where is the incentive, besides karma, for people to submit ideas? There’s something to be said about social entrepreneurism. If it’s really a great idea, others should be able to take that and do something really positive while also making money. If that’s the case, maybe Google can choose to fund startup companies that can execute the idea. I think that’d be a really cool angle to hold an actual “contest” of sorts.

I’ve been thinking about what kind of submission I would send to Google. I think it’d be for:

A non-evil search engine whose mission would be to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. One that doesn’t censor any of its results and doesn’t do business with governments that engage in censorship.

University of Michigan Job Fair ’08 + Facebook!

Today and Yesterday were fun days since the engineering career fair was going on at north campus. Having started my own company (I’m the President!), I might not need to be looking at jobs this very moment. But I’m also looking at PhD programs and other stuff to do after I graduate, so I figured I should scope out the job scene as well.

You’re already familiar with my past job hunting experiences, I wager. Or if you aren’t check out some posts here in the archives. I stuck to the engineering fair this time (there’s also a normal career fair going on at central campus). The experience seems to be more of the same for me this year.

The thing I noticed is that there’s a large number of smaller, lesser-known companies who don’t have many people talking to them. Then there’s the big guys: MSFT, Apple, Intel who get huge ass lines of people waiting to talk. I kinda feel bad for the smaller guys, but don’t talk to them anyway since they seem pathetic. I mean that in a sympathetic way. I’m sure they’re great companies though.

The first day, I went to talk to Microsoft, Apple, Expedia, Amazon and a few others. A brother of a friend did an internship at Microsoft, and so I have a higher opinion of them than I had before. They seem pretty into the whole student life thing. In the evening, they had this experimental tech fiesta thing. Basically a bunch of newer products with the people working on them, explaining how cool the stuff is. There was stuff like: Zune (the software, very cool), Startup Labs (which I am definitely applying to), Silverlight (which I’m still not convinced will be good) and a random dude playing Halo for what seemed like hours. Yeah, he basically just sat there the whole time. The startup labs thing seems to be a incubating thingy based in Cambridge. Way cool.

Apple was pretty standard. I talked to them, explained I made a company that did iPhone apps, etc. They seemed to just want me to do an online resume or something. And this time I didn’t get a free song or any shwag at all!

Amazon was probably the worst of them all. Every time I talk to people from Amazon, they just don’t get me. I wanted to talk about cool stuff, but they got wrapped up by testing my “engineerness.” Like, they asked me how I would sort a large array of numbers that wouldn’t fit into a single computer. “Well,” I said, “the answer you’re looking for is probably distributing the work to multiple computers and merging the lists back together after each computer is done with its share.” I seriously was just patronizing the person. Then they threw the “How do you find a loop in a linked list?” Actually, first they asked me if I knew what a linked list was. I wanted to say something like “DUDE, I HAVE A DEGREE IN COMPUTER SCIENCE! PLUS NO ONE USES LINKED LISTS IN REAL LIFE!” But basically I was happy to finally leave. Amazon might be a sweet company, but their recruiters blow hard.

I also talked to a dude from Expedia who worked in their labs. He was really funny and really cool. I think he enjoys his job a lot. He was trying hard to see if there was a spot I could fill in the org, but it looks like their labs department is too small right now to hire on a random generalist. Which is kind of what I love to do. He was super cool though, seemed kind of crazy in a good way.

I also noticed one of the most exorbitant career fair booths I have ever seen in my life. It’s the one in the picture at the top of this post. I should’ve taken more pics. I don’t know what ArcelorMittal does, but they can afford fucking plasmas in their brushed steel pagodas! It was like an experimental Ikea home or something, seriously!

The second day of the career fair (today) was much quieter. I talked to Yahoo, imo.im and Arbor Networks. A classmate of mine did an internship at Yahoo this summer and turned me onto their stuff. The guy I talked to happened to be working in the mobile dept at Yahoo and dug my iPhone app that I demo’ed for him. But I said that I wanted to do more project lead stuff like product management. Unfortunately, it seems like business people do the PMing at Yahoo, which is totally different from most orgs. I think Microsoft and Google both hire PMs with engineering backgrounds. Anyway, the dude said to apply anyway and my resume could find its way into the right hands somehow.

imo.im is the company I blogged about previously. They sent me a t-shirt! The recruiter, Marissa, remembered me and basically reiterated stuff from last time. I also did a raffle and ended up winning a shirt again. She’ll mail it to me. Honestly, imo.im seems like a pretty sweet startup gig, but the recruiter explained that they’re looking for extremely talented coders and algorithmers. I imagine the interview process would be grueling. It makes sense, though, since they’re a startup and need to have as much manpower for their size as possible.

Arbor Networks is a network security company here in town. I talked to the guy, thanking them for giving me a shirt the last time I talked to them. I didn’t think there’d be much overlap between my interests and theirs, but we started talking about network visualizations. I wonder if we were on the same page. Either way, I’ll check out their company again since their recruiters seem cool.

Finally, Facebook had an info session tonight. The dude who interviewed me last year was here again. This time the presentation seemed really too technical and boring versus the one last year which was more fun and about the company itself. They gave a lot of code examples, but I’ve developed FB apps before so it was old news to me. I’d be more interested in hearing about FB’s future plans, but I doubt they would reveal stuff like that.

Last year I had interviewed for an engineering gig. I think I was a bit too rusty for that. This time, I hope I can prove my worth in more than just coding, but in analysis, business stuff, and creativity too.

Overall, the career fair was pretty fun. It’s too bad that some recruiters are completely clueless, but the good ones are really good. It seems a bit silly sometimes for recruiters to show up all the way in Ann Arbor just to say “email us your resume,” but I guess the impression is what counts.

Spore Score Pwned By Amazon.com Users

I really love how users on Amazon have rebelled and made the average score of Spore = 1. I’m not sure if the game is really that bad or not, but it seems the big beef so far is with the DRM scheme. If that’s so, I kind of feel bad for the developers. They probably have no say in whether or not their game gets DRM slapped on it, so it’s punishing them for something out of their control.

DRM sucks, but I dunno if it’s “okay” to act like a baby and give the game 1 star if it’s really better than that. But hey, I haven’t played it so maybe it really sucks. Probably has to do with the years(!) of hype the game got that couldn’t possibly be followed through in the end.

In other video game news, I got Disgaea 3 and have been playing that for a bit. It’s pretty much the same as Disgaea 1-2 but it’s still fun. I’m a bit dissapointed that the vector graphics are still pretty low res. If it’s the PS3 I’d like to see at least a few more pixels on those characters. 3D would probably ruin the game, but higher res would be very much appreciated.

I also got Resident Evil 4 for the Wii but haven’t played it yet. Too scared of dogs jumping through the window like in the first one… Fuck that was scary!