1x21: Everything Old Is Old Again

The Bad Voltage team present tasty things for your ears. Jeremy "stalwart" Garcia, Stuart "stalwart" Langridge, Jono Bacon, and Bryan Lunduke fight through the logistical challenges of being even further apart than usual to bring you thoughts, expertise, and arguments about:

  • Do Google still know how to make compelling technology? It seems that all Google's successful products are ten years old. Have they forgotten how to build a new product that lots of people like?
  • Is the technology world ageist? Is being old a problem, and are you old at 40? And is the Valley worse?
  • Linux Voice is a print magazine run by the ex-Linux Format team, and which was initially funded by an Indiegogo campaign. Is this a good idea? A review of the team's thoughts
  • Ask For Advice: Online payments are a mess. Lock-in everywhere -- Android must use Google Wallet; all payments on iOS must go through Apple; Amazon won't take Paypal; eBay pushes it hard; Verified by Visa is rubbish. What's good about the current system? What's bad about it? What could be fixed? Stuart asks for the team and the community's input.

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Google Stars seems to be precisely the kind of engineering project you were talking about. Will be interesting to see how it goes over the next 3 years. IMO, no one has properly figured out this cloud bookmarking space yet. I use Delicious, and it kind of s***’* b****.

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About online payment I think a credit card should be enough to be able to pay in every online shop. But I have the problem that this doesn’t always work for me. I am Luxembourger and have a Luxembourgian credit card but live in Germany so the address of most of my online accounts are German and e.g. Steam and Playstation don’t accept credit cards from other countries than the accounts.

Loved the fact that you featured Linux Voice on the Podcast.

I’m a Linux Voice subscriber and contributed to their Indiegogo campaign - I love the magazine, love their podcast and their forums/community.

I just thought it was a shame that you didn’t mention that as well as being an independent publication, free of corporate influence, 50% of Linux Voice profits will go back to the Free and Open Source Software community, and all content of Linux Voice will be released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-SA) in no less than nine months after it first being published.

I just thought these points might be of some importance.


We’re likely going to have Graham Morrison from Linux Voice on a later show, and we can go into more detail then. I think personally that the notion of creating a print magazine, and that there’s a viable market for it, is more interesting than that the magazine will be free nine months from now – but they’re both important, and thank you for bringing it up, and we’ll talk to Graham about that!

It will be great to have Graham Morrison on your podcast - thanks for that. The Linux Voice story is fascinating for many reasons.

As the board’s iOS apologist, I don’t think Apple feels the need to dip in for 30% for every transaction on their devices. Usually, they take a cut from software goods because that’s what they sell in the platform. For example, Amazon has a Kindle app that does not sell e-books because Apple would take 30% because Apple sells e-books in their iTunes store. Amazon also has an app with which (last I knew), you could purchase hard goods to be delivered to your doorstep and Apple doesn’t get a penny. So, a sale of AC/DC’s Back in Black on mp3 would give Apple a cut. For a sale of the vinyl version, they wouldn’t.

That said, Apple is likely working on a payment system that employs the fingerprint reader for identification, and they’ll likely not make it an open standard, and if it isn’t, it won’t get any traction.

Also, the iOS app is waiting for review. It may be as late as next Tuesday before it’s approved.

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[quote=“Ld00d, post:7, topic:2053”]
I don’t think Apple feels the need to dip in for 30% for every transaction on their devices…purchase hard goods to be delivered to your doorstep and Apple doesn’t get a penny[/quote]
Agreed. However, imagine a world in which there is One Payment System To Rule Them All. I can only see the following approaches:

  1. Apple could use this payment system everywhere but only allow it to be used for non-software purchases, and retain the existing system in order that they can take a 30% cut of software stuff, meaning that there are now two ways to pay depending on who you’re buying from and thus basically continuing the existing balkanisation
  2. Apple switch all payments to use this system, and take their 30% cut as the provider of the software to you, rather than for provision of the payment service – this means that people would be able to handle, for example, in-app payments using their own service, unless Apple just forbid that in order to keep the revenue
  3. Apple switch none of the payment systems to use this service and don’t support it

Not sure any of these are great (and I’m not sure Apple can be condemned for choosing any of them, either.)

As far as age goes. I’m 41, been using linux and computers on and off for about 20 years. And being the procrastinator I am, I finally decided I want to find my way into a career in the Linux world. And I have to say, at my age, I find it a little intimidating just looking. Mind you, I don’t have a degree. But I have quite a bit of tech experience. But my lack of having anything on paper or my resume with my age added on top, makes it a bit scary.

I think it would be easier if I could accept very entry level employment, but as stated in the podcast, I have a family and a home to maintain, so going that route doesn’t help.

Right now I focus on sharing my quick learning, teamwork and my Military Experience(it helps in the US), and the varied tech experience I have. None of it is laser focused at a particular career though.

But now I have realized I have babbled way to much and will end this rant…but age does seem to add to a list of obstacles to get in the door anywhere tech.

Ya. Are you a system administrator type? If not, then whatever thing you do do may be available across different platforms. For example, I’m sometimes a web backend developer, and use node.js a lot; I happen to use Ubuntu as my main desktop, but I could quite happily use Mac or Windows as my main desktop, do my work, and learn about Ubuntu for doing deployments and servers and things while not having to make a wholesale shift. So my CV would say “node” rather than “Ubuntu”…?

@jeremy, @jonobacon, @sil, I did enjoy your discussion on age. It made me think of a point that occured to me as I listened and I would like to hear your thoughts.

My first question is: Is there also gender bias in the tech world? I am under the impression that there is. (please bear with me, I am not trying to start another discussion on gender bias)

The question comes to the age of what venture capitalist might find useful, attractive (whether knowing or sub-consciously). It has to do with the maturity of the human brain. One article, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=141164708 , shows that the human brain does not fully mature till the late 20’s or even early 30’s. Particularly the frontal lobe. Now one aspect of the frontal lobe that does not mature, until such age, is the one that inhibits risk taking. I have not been able to find references to this yet, but I do remember when first hearing about this, that it is more pronounced in males, hence the question about gender bias.

Would this lack of inhibition to taking risks also enhance the age issue? Would that make a younger person more attractive in such a field being discussed?

I think it’s a lot easier to take risks if you are younger. If like me your in your late 40s too many people are dependant on you . If I were to start a business today and it went badly I’d lose the house and savings and I’d suffer in my retirement.

The risks I took in my early twenties luckily paid off for me and while nobody would describe me as rich I am comfortable. But at least back then I knew if the worst happened I didn’t have a child to worry about and if the worst came to the worst I could move back in with my parents temporarily. I also knew I had time to start again.

Am I glad I took the risks I did? Yes.

Would I take them again today? I don’t think so?

You also asked about gender bias. In my experience most of the women I have met in Science, Engineering and Computing have been really good at what they do. But, they have been in the minority: these fields tend to be predominantly male.

I’m not sure if this is a result of bias against women or a perception amongst women that these are not jobs for them.

I should clarify my position by saying by scientific background comes mainly from Mechanical physics and Electronics and things may be different in other disciplines, in other parts of the world or for the younger generation.

I find that still as a 22 year old finding expirence is hard as have no jobs anywhere. I find running tests of daily iso for lubuntu easier than applying for jobs. I find contributing to bug reports and testing more fun yet many testing positions require lots of expirence. I find the part of getting through interviews really hard. I mean I can find 75 bugs in ubuntu mostly in lxde and still not find the world.

I also spend lots of time on irc. Looking for work is exhausting. Not sure what exactly happens in Silicon valley but live near Los Angeles.

So this is interesting - I find technology itself does not discriminate against age. I can still bugger up installing software or hardware no matter what age I am (OK sure that is competency not ageism but really how is a young-en bashing the keys different to a mature person bashing the keys).

The question I have though is when do you experience ageism and what does it feel like?

To the first part of the question it probably first creeps up on you when you suddenly notice that you are the oldest or one of the oldest in your work team and having to do things like mentoring etc. There are many more indicators but my point is that you will probably experience ageism when you are assessed more about your ‘fit’ (social etc) within the company/group than on your competencies/experience. I also think that there will be many points in time when you may feel ageism i.e. when you find yourself being considered ‘wise’ and not just ‘old’ but of course the ‘wise’ thing has a sunset period as you graduate to ‘old fool’.

I am not sure how to quantify/describe the feeling of ageism but if at the stage I am at I would say it would feel like a bit of a ‘shock’. A wake-up call, a bolt of reality or perhaps a small amount of panic? The effect though is that you may find yourself now gazing more critically forward in your timeline rather than on the moment. I definitely would see a more conscious effort to do those ‘older’ things like asking questions on superannuation, medical, tax things etc.

Technology though could delay the effects of ageism due to ‘global’ reach. Case in point this week I approached a start-up (on the other side of the world) that is bringing to market a ‘cool’ product that is similar to something that I am working on in my shed. I simply sent them my semi-detailed Project concept. After a couple of days I got a reply that in effect said ‘mutual respect why don’t we collaborate’. Now I know the age group of the start-up cause they are on-line but they do not know mine - would this matter? It probably will come down again to the ‘fit’ question but it is interesting to think that ‘age’ in one cultural and locale may be viewed differently in another.

Really impressed with the commitment (and tech) that you guys are always around the world, and now sometimes travelling and you still take the time to put together an episode even if everyone can’t meet at the same time. Kudos and thanks!

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Recently, after an annoying period of unemployment (caused by very poor ethical behaviour by a Silicon Valley startup I might add), I’ve taken a quite low paid back to the floor job in tech, at a legal firm.
One thing I have to say about working with a team thats predominantly younger than me is that they do have a much better attitude to age than I did at their age. They venerate technical chops and ability. Apart from office banter, which I note is an inclusive banter, the subject of age is largely irrelavent to them. And because of this, they’ve secured my signature on a contract at probably half my market value.
If Silicon Valley isn’t like this and can’t do diversity as well as the real world, then they can’t expect to attract talent and keep them. It takes more than money.

I think Google does still make cool stuff. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been looking at Go to write small services with. It’s a really nice iteration of the C family and blazingly fast. I know they created it for their own use (i believe you tube is running off it) but it was still cool to open source it.

Ageist wise, I may have gotten a bit of stick when I started my apprenticeship at 16, but not really much else. I’ve worked with proper old school guys and hipsters alike, it’s down to the individual in the end as to how good they are.

Online payment wise, I think only bitcoin et al. can provide the ‘cash like’ solution, but that’s probably never going to work for the average online shopper.

Sliding out of character slightly momentarily, one’s curriculum vitae has not featured one’s age for some time. It’s not necessarily relevant to a technical post where what matters is one’s capability to deliver on the tasks requested by one’s employer.

You appear to have a similar timeline to one’s own (one has just turned 40, and has been in one IT role or another for 18 years, sysadmin roles for the last 10). The key to a CV where you’ve floated from role to role is highlight one’s experience rather than simply describe what you did. Highlight technologies used, and where possible, tailor the CV for different roles when applying. If your commercial experience is light, make a point of noting anything you’ve volunteered for (open source projects, user groups, etc) and what was used during that volunteer role. Instead of listing “Hobbies” or “Favourite Pastimes” (CV no-no’s!), perhaps briefly list personal projects you’ve worked on (“built a quadcopter”, “set up a home server cluster to learn new technologies”, etc).

And remember that one’s CV is just a means to get a foot in the door. It’s the interview(s) where the job is nailed down. One applied for a job a fortnight ago, had a phone interview on Monday, had an in-person interview on Friday morning and 40 minutes after leaving, one hadn’t even driven half-way home when one got a call saying one had been offered the job.

Get the foot in the door! :slight_smile:

It’s not like this, in one’s experience, although one was compensated well commensurate to one’s experience and abilities :wink:

I’m so happy that you haven’t changed your avatar. So happy.

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