Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Watch Samsung Unveil Its Folding Galaxy F Smartphone

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Watch Samsung Unveil Its Folding Galaxy F Smartphone

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Gadgets

iPhone XS & XS Max Review: Do You Need to Upgrade?

WIRED’s Lauren Goode reviews the latest iPhone models — the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max — and tests the battery life, camera and video capabilities.
CORRECTION, Sept. 19, 5:05 PM EST: The video above misstated the water rating for the iPhone XS and XS Max. While the IP68 standard states that devices must be waterproof to more than 1 meter, Apple’s new phones are waterproof up to 2 meters for up to 30 minutes.”

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Midterm Elections 2018: Voting Machine Meltdowns Are Normal—That’s the Problem

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Midterm Elections 2018: Voting Machine Meltdowns Are Normal—That’s the Problem

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Charles Mostoller/Reuters

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Charles Mostoller/Reuters

David Weiner counts himself lucky. Sure, he waited an hour to vote at the Brooklyn Public Library along with, he estimates, several hundred other New Yorkers Tuesday afternoon. But, hey, at least he arrived when the last ballot scanner officially broke. That meant he could just fill out his ballot and shove it in a box. The people in line in front of him, the ones who’d been waiting to use that last ballot scanner, said they’d been in line for twice as long.

“The line snaked all the way around the lobby of the public library, which is extremely unusual,” says Weiner, a Brooklyn resident who runs a cannabis media company and has been voting at the same location for three years. “I took that as enthusiasm for voting, but I was sorely mistaken.”

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired A Runway Train Traveled 57 Miles Through Australia’s Outback

Hexbyte Tech News Wired A Runway Train Traveled 57 Miles Through Australia’s Outback

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

When a 268-car, 4-locomotive train barreled through the Australian Outback with no one aboard, authorities had to knock it off its tracks.

Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

When a 268-car, 4-locomotive train barreled through the Australian Outback with no one aboard, authorities had to knock it off its tracks.

Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Most things don’t happen the way they do in the movies. Changes are less sudden, incidents less surprising, humans less attractive. But when a runaway train tore through the Australian outback, the action sequence that followed seems to have come right out of a Tony Scott flick.

The whole mess started when the engineer stopped the 268-car, four-locomotive train and hopped out to inspect one of the cars, according to the Australian Transport Safety Board. While he was on the ground (presumably distracted by giant spiders and roving kangaroos), the train pulled away with nobody on board. Loaded down with iron ore, it was soon hitting 68 mph. The train, operated by metals, mining, and petroleum giant BHP, covered a remarkable 57 miles before the company stopped it—by flinging it off the tracks.

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Top Races to Watch on Midterm Election Night 2018

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Top Races to Watch on Midterm Election Night 2018

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Beto O’Rourke has run an unexpectedly successful race against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz in Texas, and he’s had a lot of support from Silicon Valley.

Lauren Joseph; Beto by Richard W. Rodriguez/AP; Cruz by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Beto O’Rourke has run an unexpectedly successful race against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz in Texas, and he’s had a lot of support from Silicon Valley.

Lauren Joseph; Beto by Richard W. Rodriguez/AP; Cruz by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

To say that there’s a lot riding on the midterm elections would be an understatement. For Democrats, it’s a chance to take over the House of Representatives and serve as a check on President Trump’s administration and a (likely) Republican-led Senate. For Republicans, it’s an opportunity to press forward on reforms to healthcare and tax policy that evaded them in the first two years of the Trump presidency.

This election also comes at a critical time for the tech industry, when members of both parties are beginning to challenge the dominance of companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple. No longer the golden children of a new economy, these juggernauts have faced pointed questions from Congress and state governments on everything from their data collection practices to their business models to how they moderate and police speech. At the same time, important questions about issues like net neutrality and data privacy hang in limbo. Whether the House goes blue or stays red could shape any upcoming privacy legislation, and a Democratic House could move forward on restoring net neutrality, something the Senate has already approved.

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Midterm Elections 2018: How to Find and Watch Results

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Midterm Elections 2018: How to Find and Watch Results

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

How to Watch the Midterm Election Results

How Americans vote today will determine who sits in government for at least the next two years—but tonight’s outcome will shape policy for years to come. With hundreds of key races nationwide, the 2018 midterm elections will be one to watch. Here’s how you can stay informed before, during, and after tonight’s midterm elections.

Watch Midterm Election Results Live

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Events

WIRED25: Marc Benioff Talks About Taxing the Rich, Tackling Homelessness, and Philanthropy

Salesforce Chairman and Co-CEO Marc Benioff spoke with WIRED’s Adam Rogers as part of WIRED25, WIRED’s 25th anniversary celebration in San Francisco.

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Midterm Elections 2018: Georgia Voting Machine Issues Heighten Scrutiny on Brian Kemp

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Midterm Elections 2018: Georgia Voting Machine Issues Heighten Scrutiny on Brian Kemp

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who has led an aggressive purge of the state’s voting rolls.

Leah Millis/Reuters

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who has led an aggressive purge of the state’s voting rolls.

Leah Millis/Reuters

If former state representative Stacey Abrams wins the race for governor of Georgia, she would be the US’s first black woman governor. She’s running in a tightly contested race against sitting secretary of state Brian Kemp, who in his official capacity as overseer of Georgia’s voter rolls has fought hard the past few months to remove people from the active voter lists who might be inclined to vote for Abrams. He’s been accused of targeting black voters specifically, purging them from voter rolls. Black people make up 30.2 percent of Georgia’s population, according to the US Census.

Many have said Kemp should have stepped down as secretary of state, citing a conflict of interest between his role as the guardian of the vote and as a candidate on the ballot. New questions around Kemp’s oversight of the election flared Tuesday amid problems with voting in some parts of the state. Late Tuesday, a group of Georgian voters filed a lawsuit requesting an injunction to prevent Kemp from overseeing the vote count, writing that they have “reasonable belief that Kemp will not be a fair judge of the outcome of the elections and will exercise his official duties in a biased manner that denies them the right to cast an effective vote.” The plaintiffs request someone new be appointed to certify the outcome of the vote.1

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Midterm Elections 2018: Extreme Gerrymandering Could Still Stymie the Blue Wave

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Midterm Elections 2018: Extreme Gerrymandering Could Still Stymie the Blue Wave

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Since giving map-drawing power to an independent commission, California has become one of the least gerrymandered states—and therefore, one of the most competitive for Democrats.

imageBROKER/Alamy

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Since giving map-drawing power to an independent commission, California has become one of the least gerrymandered states—and therefore, one of the most competitive for Democrats.

imageBROKER/Alamy

If you look at the polls and the forecasts put out by election oracles like Nate Silver, the race to win control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday seems tilted in Democrats’ favor. Michael Li will tell you that if Democrats do take back the House, it will have been against all odds.

In a report released earlier this year, Li and his colleagues at the Brennan Center for Justice found that in order to win a bare majority in the House, Democrats would need to win the national popular vote by 11 points, a margin no party has seen in decades. That’s thanks to gerrymandering, the process of strategically manipulating an election map’s boundaries to preference one political party or group over another. Since 2012, the country’s electoral map has been so heavily skewed toward Republicans that in severely gerrymandered states like Ohio, North Carolina, and Michigan, Democrats could win more than half the vote and still walk away with a minority of congressional seats.

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Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers VMware acquires Heptio, the startup founded by 2 co-founders of Kubernetes

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers VMware acquires Heptio, the startup founded by 2 co-founders of Kubernetes

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers

During its big customer event in Europe, VMware announced another acquisition to step up its game in helping enterprises build and run containerised, Kubernetes-based architectures: it has acquired Heptio, a startup out of Seattle that was co-founded by Joe Beda and Craig McLuckie, who were two of the three people who co-created Kubernetes back at Google in 2014 (it has since been open sourced).

Beda and McLuckie and their team will all be joining VMware in the transaction.

Terms of the deal are not being disclosed — VMware said in a release that they are not material to the company — but as a point of reference, when Heptio last raised money — a $25 million Series B in 2017, with investors including Lightspeed, Accel and Madrona — it was valued at $117 million post-money, according to data from PitchBook.

Given the pedigree of Heptio’s founders, this is a signal of the big bet that VMware is taking on Kubernetes, and the belief that it will become an increasing cornerstone in how enterprises run their businesses. The larger company already works with 500,000+ customers globally, and 75,000 partners. It’s not clear how many customers Heptio worked with but they included large, tech-forward businesses like Yahoo Japan.

It’s also another endorsement of the ongoing rise of open source and its role in cloud architectures, a paradigm that got its biggest boost at the end of October with IBM’s acquisition of RedHat, one of the biggest tech acquisitions of all time at $34 billion.

Heptio provides professional services for enterprises that are adopting or already use Kubernetes, providing training, support and building open-source projects for managing specific aspects of Kubernetes and related container clusters, and this deal is about VMware expanding the business funnel and margins for Kubernetes within it its wider cloud, on-premise and hybrid storage and computing services with that expertise.

“Kubernetes is emerging as an open framework for multi-cloud infrastructure that enables enterprise organizations to run modern applications,” said Paul Fazzone, senior vice president and general manager, Cloud Native Apps Business Unit, VMware, in a statement. “Heptio products and services will reinforce and extend VMware’s efforts with PKS to establish Kubernetes as the de facto standard for infrastructure across clouds upon closing. We are thrilled that the Heptio team led by Craig and Joe will be joining VMware to help us guide customers as they move to a multi-cloud world.”

VMware and its Pivotal business already offer Kubernetes-related services by way of PKS, which lets organizations run cloud-agnostic apps. Heptio will become a part of that wider portfolio.

“The team at Heptio has been focused on Kubernetes, creating products that make it easier to manage multiple clusters across multiple clouds,” said Craig McLuckie, CEO and co-founder of Heptio. “And now we will be tapping into VMware’s cloud native resources and proven ability to execute, amplifying our impact. VMware’s interest in Heptio is a recognition that there is so much innovation happening in open source. We are jointly committed to contribute even more to the community—resources, ideas and support.”

VMware has made some 33 acquisitions overall, according to Crunchbase, but this appears to have been the first specifically to boost its position in Kubernetes.

The deal is expected to close by fiscal Q4 2019, VMware said.

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Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Sci-Fi Writer Greg Egan and Anonymous Math Whiz Advance Permutation Problem | Quanta Magazine

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers Sci-Fi Writer Greg Egan and Anonymous Math Whiz Advance Permutation Problem | Quanta Magazine

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers

combinatorics
By Erica Klarreich

November 5, 2018

A new proof from the Australian science fiction writer Greg Egan and a 2011 proof anonymously posted online are now being hailed as significant advances on a puzzle mathematicians have been studying for at least 25 years.

On September 16, 2011, an anime fan posted a math question to the online bulletin board 4chan about the cult classic television series The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Season one of the show, which involves time travel, had originally aired in nonchronological order, and a re-broadcast and a DVD version had each further rearranged the episodes. Fans were arguing online about the best order to watch the episodes, and the 4chan poster wondered: If viewers wanted to see the series in every possible order, what is the shortest list of episodes they’d have to watch?

In less than an hour, an anonymous person offered an answer — not a complete solution, but a lower bound on the number of episodes required. The argument, which covered series with any number of episodes, showed that for the 14-episode first season of Haruhi, viewers would have to watch at least 93,884,313,611 episodes to see all possible orderings. “Please look over [the proof] for any loopholes I might have missed,” the anonymous poster wrote.

The proof slipped under the radar of the mathematics community for seven years — apparently only one professional mathematician spotted it at the time, and he didn’t check it carefully. But in a plot twist last month, the Australian science fiction novelist Greg Egan proved a new upper bound on the number of episodes required. Egan’s discovery renewed interest in the problem and drew attention to the lower bound posted anonymously in 2011. Both proofs are now being hailed as significant advances on a puzzle mathematicians have been studying for at least 25 years.

Mathematicians quickly verified Egan’s upper bound, which, like the lower bound, applies to series of any length. Then Robin Houston, a mathematician at the data visualization firm Kiln, and Jay Pantone of Marquette University in Milwaukee independently verified the work of the anonymous 4chan poster. “It took a lot of work to try to figure out whether or not it was correct,” Pantone said, since the key ideas hadn’t been expressed particularly clearly.

Now, Houston and Pantone, joined by Vince Vatter of the University of Florida in Gainesville, have written up the formal argument. In their paper, they list the first author as “Anonymous 4chan Poster.”

“It’s a weird situation that this very elegant proof of something that wasn’t previously known was posted in such an unlikely place,” Houston said.

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers Permutation Cities

If a television series has just three episodes, there are six possible orders in which to view them: 123, 132, 213, 231, 312 and 321. You could string these six sequences together to give a list of 18 episodes that includes every ordering, but there’s a much more efficient way to do it: 123121321. A sequence like this one that contains every possible rearrangement (or permutation) of a collection of n symbols is called a “superpermutation.”

In 1993, Daniel Ashlock and Jenett Tillotson observed that if you look at the shortest superpermutations for different values of n, a pattern quickly seems to emerge involving factorials — those numbers, written in the form n!, that involve multiplying together all the numbers up to n (for example, 4! = 4 × 3  × 2 × 1).

If your series has just one episode, the shortest superpermutation has length 1! (also known as plain old 1). For a two-episode series, the shortest superpermutation (121) has length 2! + 1!. For three episodes (the example we looked at above), the length works out to 3! + 2! + 1!, and for four episodes (123412314231243121342132413214321), it is 4! + 3! + 2! + 1!. The factorial rule for superpermutations became conventional wisdom (even though no one could prove it was true for every value of n), and mathematicians later confirmed it for = 5.

Then in 2014, Houston startled mathematicians by showing that for = 6, the pattern breaks down. The factorial rule predicts that to watch six episodes in every possible order should require 873 episodes, but Houston found a way to do it in 872. And since there is a simple way to convert a short superpermutation on n symbols into a short superpermutation on + 1 symbols, Houston’s example meant that the factorial rule fails for every value of n above 6 too.

Houston’s construction works by translating the superpermutation problem into the famous traveling salesman problem, which looks for the shortest route through a collection of cities. More specifically, superpermutations are connected to the “asymmetric” traveling salesman problem, in which each path between two cities has a cost (which is not necessarily the same in both directions), and the goal is to find the least expensive route through all the cities.

The translation is simple: Think of each permutation as a “city” and imagine a path from each permutation to each other permutation. In the superpermutation problem, we want the shortest possible sequence of digits that lists all the permutations, so the goal is to travel through the permutations in a way that adds as few digits to the starting permutation as possible. So we declare the cost of each path to be simply the number of digits we have to attach to the end of the first permutation to get the second one. In the = 3 example, for instance, the path from 231 to 312 costs $1, since we just have to add a 2 to the end of 231 to get 312, while the path from 231 to 132 costs $2, since we have to add a 32. With this setup, the least-expensive path through the cities corresponds directly to the shortest superpermutation.

This translation meant that Houston could turn the power of traveling salesman algorithms on the superpermutation problem. The traveling salesman problem is famous as an NP-hard problem, meaning that there’s no efficient algorithm that can solve all cases of it. But there are algorithms that can solve some cases efficiently, and other algorithms that produce good approximate solutions. Houston used one of the latter to produce his 872-digit superpermutation.

Since he produced only an approximate solution, it might not be the very best superpermutation. Mathematicians are now conducting a giant computer search for the shortest superpermutation on six symbols, Pantone said. “We know our search will finish in finite time, but don’t know if that’s one week or a million years,” he said. “There’s no progress bar.”

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers The Wrong Order

By the time of Houston’s work, the anonymous 4chan post had been sitting in its corner of the internet for nearly three years. One mathematician, Nathaniel Johnston of Mount Allison University, had noticed a copy of the post on a different website a few days after it was posted — not because he was an anime fan, but because he had typed an assortment of superpermutation-related search terms into Google.

Johnston read the argument and thought it seemed plausible, but he didn’t invest much effort in checking it carefully. At the time, mathematicians believed that the factorial formula for superpermutations was probably correct, and when you think you know the exact answer to a question, a lower bound isn’t very interesting. In other words, the superpermutation research episodes were playing out of order.

Johnston later mentioned the lower bound on a couple of websites, but “I don’t think anyone really gave it any particular heed,” Houston said.

Then on September 26 of this year, the mathematician John Baez of the University of California, Riverside, posted on Twitter about Houston’s 2014 finding, as part of a series of tweets about apparent mathematical patterns that fail. His tweet caught the eye of Egan, who was a mathematics major decades ago, before he launched an award-winning career as a science fiction novelist (his breakthrough 1994 novel, in a happy coincidence, was called Permutation City). “I’ve never stopped being interested in [mathematics],” Egan wrote by email.

Egan wondered if it was possible to construct superpermutations even shorter than Houston’s. He scoured the literature for papers on how to construct short paths through permutation networks, and after a few weeks found exactly what he needed. Within a day or two, he had come up with a new upper bound on the length of the shortest superpermutation for n symbols: n! + (n – 1)! + (n – 2)! + (n – 3)! + n – 3. It’s similar to the old factorial formula, but with many terms removed.

“It absolutely smashed the [previous] upper bound,” Houston said.

The anonymous 4chan poster’s lower bound, meanwhile, was tantalizingly close to the new upper bound: It works out to n! + (n – 1)! + (n – 2)! + n – 3. When Egan’s result became public, Johnston reminded other mathematicians about the anonymous poster’s proof, and Houston and Pantone soon showed it was correct. As with Houston’s work, the new lower and upper bounds both come at superpermutations via the traveling salesman problem: The lower bound shows that a route through all the cities must travel along some minimum number of paths that cost more than $1, while the upper bound constructs a specific route for each n that uses only $1 and $2 connections.

Researchers are now trying to bring the upper and lower bounds together to find a single formula that solves the superpermutation problem. “Probably people are eventually going to completely nail down this puzzle,” Baez predicted. “It’s looking good now.”

For Haruhi fans, Egan’s construction gives explicit instructions for how to watch all possible orderings of season one in just 93,924,230,411 episodes. Viewers could start binge-watching immediately, or they could wait and see whether mathematicians can whittle this number down. The anonymous poster’s lower bound proves that this whittling down couldn’t possibly save more than about 40 million episodes — but that’s enough to get a nice start on season two.

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Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Stripe’s Will Larson on Designing a Performance Management System from Scratch

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers Stripe’s Will Larson on Designing a Performance Management System from Scratch

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers

“In Engineering, we tend to hold this idea that these people systems—career ladders, performance reviews, calibration—are these evil things that aren’t very valuable. They’re thought of as bureaucracy. But it’s a shame. These are really powerful systems, and I’m actually excited to personally spend a lot of time with them.”

Will Larson, who was previously an engineering leader at Digg and then Uber, now leads Foundation Engineering at Stripe. His organization partners with Infrastructure, Data, and Developer Productivity teams to build the tools that support every Stripe engineer and keep Stripe reliable and performant.

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers

You can go about building a performance management system in uncountable ways, but Larson points out that most of them are comprised of three core elements: career ladders, performance designations, and performance cycles. These combined systems focus your team’s efforts on the activities and metrics that ultimately help the organization succeed, by providing direct feedback to engineers on how valuable their work is (and by measuring it against expectations).

We spoke with Larson about how (and why) to shape these foundational elements of a performance management system in a way that actually serves your team and your organization.

“The purpose of these combined systems is to focus the company’s efforts towards activities that help the company succeed. The output of these efforts is to provide explicit feedback to employees on how the company is valuing their work.”

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers The first element: Career Ladders

Career ladders detail the anticipated evolution of team members’ behaviors and responsibilities in their distinct roles. For instance, an engineer might grow from a Junior Engineer to Senior Engineer and Staff Engineer, with progressive responsibilities and complexity at each level.

“At each level, people want to know what the expectations are,” Larson says. “What are the behaviors that you want to see? My experiences have led me to believe that at their best, career ladders are powerful tools for shaping culture.”

The most effective ladders, he says, are self-contained and concise. They also allow individuals to self-assess their work accurately. And when even a strong sketch of a career ladder is in place before filling a role, the ladder can also aid both potential hires and their new managers in understanding a position’s expectations.

“There are plenty of organizations who don’t have the fundamentals of career development written yet,” Larson says. “I think it’s easy for companies to be intimidated by the work involved in creating career ladders, with clearly defined roles and expectations at each level. But in reality, career ladders don’t need to be remarkable to be effective*.* Consider the first version of a career ladder to be an MVP. ” Just being able to see the types of work this person will do, and what their priorities are, is certainly helpful.

Each person you hire from then on, is an opportunity to gather feedback and further develop the ladders. “Don’t worry about writing something wonderful right off the bat,” he suggests. “Just worry about writing something you can iterate on.” In fact, he even recommends creating a lightweight ladder before hiring the first person to fill a given role.

“At their best, career ladders are powerful tools for shaping culture.”

But whenever you’re implementing career ladders, you can start small—most companies, he observes, start with about three levels and add on over time, perhaps a level every two years. So you don’t have to write a robust ladder today—and you can allow the role’s functions to determine the appropriate structure of your ladders. While you want frameworks that are global and shared across the organization, you’ll also notice that each role’s ladder (particularly the specialized ones with fewer people on them) takes on its own characteristics.

“What I’ve seen work best is to be tolerant of career ladder proliferation,” Larson says. His rule of thumb is that most any ladder with more than ten people should probably be fleshed out more fully, but smaller functions can survive with a rougher outline. “There’s an expectation that you’ll really start discovering what you want from the smaller functions,” he adds.

What matters more than a ladder’s complexity is its clarity. You want to avoid fuzziness between levels; each level on the ladder ought to be well defined so that your engineers understand exactly what duties are expected of them. “Crisp level boundaries reduce ambiguity when considering whether to promote an individual across levels,” he says. Also, he suggests avoiding descriptions that require deep knowledge of precedent to apply correctly. The ladder should be easily understood by someone interacting with your organization for the first time.

“If you’re going to invest in doing one component of performance management well,” Larson says, “make it the ladders. Everything else builds on this foundation.”

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers Step two: Performance Designations

Once you have your career ladders written and in place, you can begin using them to set expectations around performance and evaluate how your team is doing against those expectations. The descriptions of each level should aid everyone in self-reflection and in your career coaching 1:1s, but Larson recommends also integrating formal feedback into your performance management system using performance designations.

In short, performance designations evaluate engineers’ performance in the context of their level on the career ladder.

Because these designations are explicit statements about an individual’s work, they help mitigate miscommunication between you, the organization, and the engineers. And when the direction engineers receive doesn’t jive with their ladder level, the performance designation provides an opportunity for debugging.

“More important than the scale used for rating, is how the ratings are calculated,” Larson says. In other words, don’t get hung up on whether you’re giving your engineers a perfect 10 or an acceptable 7. Instead, bring in input from several avenues.

Larson observes that the typical setup for performance designations consists of:

  • Self-review, where the engineers compare and contrast their work against their ladder and level,
  • Peer reviews, which recognize leadership contributions that might get missed, as well, as identifying problems you’re missing out on,
  • Upward review, to include the perspectives of any people they directly manage, and
  • Manager review, which will also synthesize the other three types.

Presenting performance designations will also aid you, as a leader, in setting clear goals and providing direction because you’ll be interacting regularly with what is happening (and what needs to happen differently).

“Define the problem you are solving and retrain yourself to evaluate what your team is giving to folks.”

“I think something that tends to work is having a team mission grounded in the company’s goals but also in what your internal or external users want from your team,” Larson says. “As opposed to defining ‘Here’s what I want to be doing,’ describe “Here’s what our users want from us.’ Define the problem you are solving and retrain yourself to evaluate what your team is giving to folks.”

Consistent performance designations ensure that the team is staying on track both for their careers and for the organization’s goals, and they also help you define some of the trickier yet essential parts of managing: who needs to stay, and who is ready for a promotion.

“I think people care about promotions for basically two different reasons,” Larson says. “The first is that companies typically tie compensations to levels. The other reason we care, is status and recognition. Titles are one of the most useful ways for people to understand where they fit in an organization, and where they can grow — and for a lot of folks, promotions are a way of showing recognition and appreciation of someone’s work.”

With a rubric in place that establishes clarity around what “success” or “good work” looks like in a given role, it’s much easier to realize when an engineer is punching above their weight class. You might then recognize their progress by praising their work publicly, by encouraging the engineer to take on even more challenging problems — or by giving them a promotion. Whatever the situation calls for, having this rubric in place will serve as a mechanism for offering grounded feedback and making evidence-based decisions.

“Understanding your people is really important,” Larson says. “They all have different preferences for receiving recognition. For some folks, swag is a wonderful form of recognition. Others don’t get any kind of reward from that, but will find it highly motivating to receive a thoughtful response, or even something as simple as saying ‘I really liked how you did this specific thing’.”

But recognition shouldn’t just come from you. Receiving praise from peers can be extremely motivating because those are the people who often understand the work best. And direct, specific feedback from senior leaders is so scarce that it tends to be far more meaningful than they realize, Larson says.

Whatever the form of recognition, it has a common purpose and effect: “People can understand very directly how their work contributes to the company,” Larson says.

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers Putting it into practice with Performance Cycles

Performance designations have the most value to you and your organization when you can develop a regular cadence with them. You need a process to ensure that performance designations happen consistently and fairly. The frequency of your designations is your performance cycle.

The timeframe doesn’t matter as much as its regularity, so you can decide what works best for you and your team. “Most companies do either annual or semi-annual performance cycles, although it’s not unheard of to do them quarterly,” Larson says.

He acknowledges that the overhead of running a performance cycle tends to be fairly heavy—after all, on top of your team’s regular work, you’re now asking them to conduct thought-out reviews. And on top of managing your team’s output, you’re now conducting substantial reviews yourself.

However, the flip side to that is that feedback from each performance cycle tends to be immensely beneficial, and its results factor into things that your team cares about—from performance to compensation. So there’s benefit to conducting them frequently, too.

Critically, there’s no right or wrong way to conduct these cycles. And performance cycles will evolve depending on what your organization needs—you may be able to conduct them quarterly with a team of ten, and shift to semi-annually as you scale to a hundred. More important than the timeframe is their consistency. Make sure your engineers can count on receiving regular reviews, as well as knowing when they will have their input heard.

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers Iterating on the process

As you write and implement your performance management system, keep at the fore of your mind that none of your process is written in stone. These are living systems, and they can (and should) evolve with your company. Each interaction between the performance management system and an engineer is an opportunity to test and refine that relationship.

“What’s really interesting are the rough edges and unexpected emergent behaviors that come into play when you start to design and run these performance systems with lots of real people involved,” Larson says.

He recommends that you get to the place where you have real numbers written down from your trials with the system, and then test it. In this way, it’s no different than any other product your team develops. “Often we run these people systems, and there’s no test, no metrics,” he says. “Just slow down a bit and take the same level of rigor to these systems and process — ultimately, they are a large part of someone’s experience of working with you. Take the way you approach product or design problems — the thought process and skillsets that have already made you successful in your role — and apply them to these systems, as well.”

Also, don’t just think of these systems as a result of the work your team does. You can flip them around to use them as part of your recruiting process, too. Once you understand how you want to evaluate and recognize people internally, that same knowledge gives you a great framework for understanding who you want to hire.

“Take the way you approach product or design problems — the thought process and skillsets that have already made you successful in your role — and apply them to these systems, as well.”

Ultimately, a performance management system isn’t the bureaucratic nightmare it’s sometimes thought to be when you allow the system to serve you instead of hindering you. After all, these different elements combine to focus your team’s efforts toward activities that further the organization’s purpose. They provide your engineers with the knowledge of how the company values their work.

And, Larson stresses, the structures discussed here are simply the most common foundational pieces of a performance management system. Your own implementation of these (and other) systems will reflect the particular view of the ideal relationship between your company and your engineers. We all have to start somewhere, though, and these are his recommendations for where to begin.

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