Icy Cold Blast
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Diversity “Goals”

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Many of us (speaking from the tech sector where I work) think the sector’s workplace diversity isn’t very good. Specifically, there aren’t enough women. Large companies — all the ones I’ve worked for, anyhow — have goals, and generally work hard at meeting them. Many companies now say they care about diversity, and have goals around improving it. But improvement is painfully slow; why? Maybe part of it is that those aren’t the same kind of “goals”.

How business goals work

When I say “large companies have goals”, I mean that in a very specific way. Each planning cycle, company groups and their managers take on a set of explicitly written-down goals for that planning cycle. Goals are tracked in a simple database and at the end of the year, each group/manager gets a pass/fail on each. The way that goals are defined and refined and agreed to and recorded and structured differs from place to place; at Google and several other big high-techs, they’re called OKRs.

The percentage of goal completion that’s regarded as “good” also varies, but it’s never 100%. The idea is that your reach should exceed your grasp, and if you score 100 you might have been sandbagging, choosing insufficiently ambitious goals to make yourself look good.

Goal completion is deadly serious business among most management types I’ve known, and the number has a real effect on career trajectory and thus compensation. I don’t think it’s controversial to say that in business, those things matter a whole lot.

Goals are sorted into “output goals” (example: $100M in sales for a product) and “input goals” (example: five customer visits per week by every salesperson). They can be technical too, around things like uptime, latency, and trouble tickets.

Input and output are not mutually exclusive. Input goals are at some level more “reasonable” because they are things that an organization controls directly. Output goals are more aggressive, but also liberating because they turn teams loose to figure out what the best path is to getting that sales number or uptime or whatever.

Generally, I like this management practice: Setting goals and measuring performance against them. It drives clarity about what you’re trying to achieve and how well you’re doing.

Diversity goal questions

Here’s a question: For any given company, do its diversity goals work like regular company goals? That is to say, do they go into the percentage completion number? The number that managers get judged on and rewarded for meeting?

I actually don’t know what the answers would be for most high-techs, but I suspect it’s “Not often enough.” I suspect that because the diversity numbers across the high-tech landscape are universally pretty bad, and because the people in management are generally, you know, pretty smart, and will come up with remarkably clever ways to meet the goals they’re getting judged on.

I’ve also observed that while the numbers are unsatisfying in the large, there are teams who consistently manage to do better than others at hiring and retaining women. And by the way, anecdotally, those are good teams (with good managers); the kind who get things done and have low attrition rates and happy customers.

Here’s another question: For diversity, should we be talking input or output goals? I say: Why not both? I’m not expert on the state of the art in building diversity, but wherever we know what the equivalent of “five customer visits per week” is, let’s sign teams up for a few of those. And yeah, output goals. Let’s ask managers to double the proportion of women engineers, measure whether they do it or not, and leave the details to them. The good ones will figure out a way to get there.

It’s like this: If you claim you have diversity goals, but your managers’ careers don’t depend on their performance against those goals, you don’t really.

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steingart
1 day ago
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Princeton, NJ
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How constraints lead to creativity: making music for Super Nintendo games

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In this short video, Evan Puschak talks about how music is made for Super Nintendo games. That system was first released in 1990 and the audio chips could only hold 64 KB of information, only enough room for beeps, boops, and very short samples. But composers like David Wise, whose soundtrack for the Donkey Kong Country series of games is on many lists of the best video game music, were able to make the SNES sing despite its limited capabilities.

Tags: David Wise   Evan Puschak   music   Nintendo   video   video games
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steingart
2 days ago
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Princeton, NJ
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Remembering the girls of the Leesburg Stockade

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In Georgia in 1963, 15 African-American girls aged 12 to 15 were arrested for trying to buy movie tickets at the whites-only theater entrance. They were arrested and held without charge for up to 45 days, their parents unaware of their whereabouts.

Instead of forming a line to enter from the back alley as was customary, the marchers attempted to purchase tickets at the front entrance. Law enforcement soon arrived and viciously attacked and arrested the girls. Never formally charged, they were jailed in squalid conditions for forty-five days in the Leesburg Stockade, a Civil War era structure situated in the back woods of Leesburg, Georgia. Only twenty miles away, parents had no knowledge of where authorities were holding their children. Nor were parents aware of their inhumane treatment.

Leesburg Stockade

Sickening. And to top it off, their parents each had to pay a $2 boarding fee when the girls were finally released. The Leesburg Stockade incident is a timely reminder that tyrants in America on the wrong side of justice have often separated children from their parents for political leverage. It wasn’t right then, and it’s not right now.

Tags: legal   politics   racism   video
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steingart
12 days ago
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Princeton, NJ
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A Very NYC Bingo Card, Presented By Gothamist & WNYC

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A Very NYC Bingo Card, Presented By Gothamist & WNYC Ever see a glitch in the system that is New York City and wonder if you're living in the Matrix? Or notice something so unusual while traversing the five boroughs that it's kind of like spotting a NYC unicorn? An orange subway seat in a row of blue subway seats, for example, or those yellow footprints still left over on the C train. There's something endearing about these otherwise mundane oddities that only New Yorkers would notice, and we wanted to honor them with a NYC Bingo Card. [ more › ]
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steingart
13 days ago
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Pshh. Michael Shannon at red hook fairway is the deeper pull.
Princeton, NJ
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1986's OutRun a maintenance hassle for arcade operators in 2018

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Running a retroarcade sounds like a lot of fun, and the same games that used to get the kids pumping quarters then are still the most popular. Which means that 32-year old OutRun cabinets tend to break down often.

Out Run is a favorite at the arcade to say the least. It is in almost constant use from our younger Players. One of the reasons of course is that Sega designed this particular model to basically make you feel you were in an actual vehicle. While not quite like the Ferrari Testarossa Spider you drive in the game itself, it’s a nice design. Furthermore there were four different versions of the arcade game produced. Two of them were upright models with two others being sit-down cabinets.

Great fun working around hot CRTs! You can whine about authentic monitors all ya like, if I were running an arcade, I would replace the innards on most of the machines with Raspberry Pis and 4k LCDs and put the original PCBs in a nice glass cases on the wall next to each, with art gallery-style cards.

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steingart
28 days ago
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I clearly remember outrun as a long lined quarter eater
Princeton, NJ
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Is This Woman Violating Subway Etiquette Or Living Her Damn Life The Way We All Wish We Could?

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Is This Woman Violating Subway Etiquette Or Living Her Damn Life The Way We All Wish We Could? The above image has torn the Gothamist Etiquette Board apart. This woman was spotted on the 1 train during this morning's rush hour commute. Is she in the wrong for for sitting in a way that's not considered "normal"—extending her legs upwards in an impressive yoga maneuver that is hurting absolutely no one, while radiating that perfectly smug look? [ more › ]
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satadru
61 days ago
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We're going to hit a point where we're all just going to start carrying lab-grade sanitizing wipes to wipe our surroundings on subways before we sit down, just like people do on airplanes.
New York, NY
steingart
63 days ago
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The only thing separating you from basically everything else in NYC is the sole of your shoe. Keep it down FFS.
Princeton, NJ
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