The year was 1999 and I had been enjoying my first retirement for a couple of years. I had taught myself some arcane computer skills and was interested to see what professional opportunities that might enable. While contemplating the best way a serious computer person could marshal promotional material, I had several important ideas that were so good that they were disastrously out of touch with employers.

The first one must surely be the most obvious: if you are a computer professional and you lack the wherewithal to be in control of a personal web site, then you are not competent enough to be a computer professional. It really is that simple — and suggests why most software seems designed by incompetents. I will keep saying this until it is not true: Tim Berners-Lee would be rolling in his grave right now if he were dead.

The second idea I had was how a serious computer professional should typeset promotional documents such as a resume. It seemed to me that using the typical mechanism (MSWord) would signal precisely the lack of quality a Linux professional like me sought to avoid. I asked myself what the superlative correct solution would be and there exists an immediate clear answer: the superlative correct computerized typesetting system is TeX. It is fine to not implement this solution. I didn’t say it was easy! Even most serious professionals aren’t really ready for such a herculean task. But to not know what TeX is, who created it, and that it is indeed the superlative correct computerized typesetting system is to not be a high-level computer professional. Naturally I created a complex resume and other artistically typeset promotional documents entirely in raw TeX (no, not LaTeX). Of course no one cared. No one even noticed. (Later, in the height of the XML craze, I updated my resume system to be a semantically organized XML document — with my own schema — which is organized by make into any other format necessary, including TeX, automatically using the surprisingly powerful xsltproc. Still, no one cares. Which is fine. I get it.)

What got me reminiscing about this stuff was the third idea I had. That idea also was, for practical purposes, a little too sophisticated to be appreciated. However I just came across something that makes me think the world could be catching up. Here’s an article describing a crazy "new" HR practice called "asynchronous interviews". It describes systems like the one offered by where candidates are given questions and asked to record video responses. The interesting bit is that it is "asynchronous" meaning the candidate can record whenever they feel like it and the hiring people can view the responses when it is convenient for them. They do not have to synchronize their activities. Brilliant! That’s a game changer!

Now take a deep breath and think carefully about whom this is a game changer for. Me? No. You? No. This video interview strategy is a godsend for intelligent people who for some strange reason are illiterate.

Yes, if you can read these words then I have another asynchronous communication technology I’d like to tell you about which can solve the problem of organizing unnecessary screening interviews. Invented relatively recently, about 5500 years ago, writing down thoughts has all of the same advantages! Imagine that. In fact, I’m going to say that if you’re concerned about "diversity" and "bias" and such things, you might want to think very carefully about the objectivity of the written word versus gawking at someone’s superficial appearance.

How absurd is this situation? I once was supposed to interview a technical writer and I thought, well, let’s just do this over email. And nobody else involved, the other stakeholders, the candidate, could wrap their head around that strategy. True story.

Back in 1999, I realized that not only was it possible to provide asynchronous answers to stock interview questions, it probably was something that — thanks to computers, the internet, and the aforementioned personal web pages — should be done pre-emptively. I researched a long list of stock interview questions, and simply wrote answers to them and made that available on my web site. In case that didn’t reveal my personality sufficiently, (thanks to search engine deficiencies) I also stumbled across a long list of popular beauty pageant "interview questions". I thought they were pretty funny and so I answered all of those too. If someone wanted to know if I was a good fit for their team, I left them no excuse to not be able to fully discern that at their leisure over the web.


Unfortunately, sensible ideas often have a way of eluding "enterprise" operations. It was also in 1999 that I realized my particular skills (using computers remotely over a network) implied huge efficiencies by skipping costly or prohibitive physical relocation and a soul destroying daily commute. But it took 22 years and a plague before even our supposedly technically advanced companies finally started to comprehend that vision.