Category: Society

Why my favorite time of the semester is final exams

SchoolSociety

During dead week last spring semester, I found myself bored and unsure of what to do. My boredom felt wrong and dangerous. I had felt the same thing in the preceding (fall) semester, but I didn’t want to lose my A’s this time because I messed up my final exams. So, since I had nothing to do, I strutted down to my academic counselor’s office and asked her, “I’m bored and I don’t know what to do. I know I should be studying, but I don’t feel like I need to study anything. What’s wrong with me?” She replied, “Nothing’s wrong with you, Jeffrey! This boredom is typical for people who have done well throughout the semester. Trust me, you will be fine.” After hearing that, I felt relieved and validated. I continued doing what I wanted, studying only a little bit. To be honest, I was still apprehensive of what she told me, but I now trust her judgement after I received all A’s that semester.

After a few weeks of the fall semester beginning, I couldn’t wait for final exams. I had weeks lined up with four tests and sometimes two tests occurred on the same day. While finals week lines up many tests on the same week, they don’t occur around the same time as other homework assignments being due, and usually don’t interfere with college applications. Furthermore, cumulative tests just means reviewing previously learned content. If I did well in my midterm exams, most of the finals should just be over the same thing that I had already learned. And if they aren’t cumulative tests, that’s fine too; final exam week is just testing, so other downtime can be used for studying instead of going to class. I find that finals week gives me the biggest chunk of downtime I can expect from any time of the semester, perhaps other than the first week.

Mathematically speaking, final exams are the final figure in calculating our grade. Depending on previous performance in the class and the weight of the final exam on your final grade in the class, one can achieve failing grades on their finals and still earn an A. This means there is lots of leeway for error if such errors are made and that means studying for finals is less stressful than regular midterm tests because there isn’t as much pressure to do well. It lets me show what I really know, without having to “cram” any knowledge into my head.

This post isn’t meant to be a panacea for those stressing over final exams. If you believe you know the content well, then you can chill a bit and naturally do pretty well on your finals, but if you have not done well on your previous tests, this is the home stretch for you to redeem yourself and try your best to get an A, if possible.

But if you had a successful semester so far, final exams are a pretty nice way to wind down. Best of luck to everyone this finals season!

Edit: I just took my first final exam of this semester: US History. It was purely a free-response exam and I had double the time I am usually afforded for this exam. So, I sat down and thought about what I would say. I excited my brain cells just thinking about how everything went together. I wasn’t under pressure to perform well. I just let out what I had to say on paper and I’m confident that I will do well. I’ve been learning this material all this semester and it’s not going to be hard to get an A.

Reputation and rhetoric

Society

I have finally found that these posts I’ve filed under “society” are not my ramblings, but my essays, in that I am essaying as Montaigne did. As such, enjoy my latest essay, which I have written because I can no longer hold my frustration within me.

As brilliant of a rhetorician one can become, their words are worthless if nobody will listen to them. Ideally, the better one’s rhetoric is, the more people will listen to them. However, this does not entirely hold true in the real world. For someone who has a sound balance of reason, ethics, and emotion, rhetoric is not really the key; it is reputation to which people listen. Our reputation is what gets us into the door and our rhetoric drives us home. The speaker’s rhetoric therefore serves limited purpose unless the speaker’s reputation is good.

I can point to real world examples, which unfortunately become easier to find as we move on from the 2016 United States presidential election. We have been described as being in a post-truth society, and I think this means that reputation matters more than rhetoric in this society. Donald Trump did not win this election with his rhetoric; his rhetoric is pitiful and laughable. Yet, he won the election, and that must be attributed to his reputation. His mudslinging and slogans got him the votes, bolstered by who he was.

I’m not like most people my age, and so I feel great difficulty in being able to connect with many people of my age. In fact, I believe most people see me as an aloof and unsociable weirdo because I think differently than they do. I can’t connect with most people because of their undesirable human tendencies, which I will discuss later. This results in me becoming an outcast—against my will, of course—and what am I to do? I am a stubborn person. I cannot sacrifice the small victories in life because doing so would go against the tenets of classical rhetoric: logos, ethos, pathos. In keeping my ground, I alienate myself from many people. Furthermore, when I next wish to communicate with them, I am met with a wall of resistance regardless of my rhetoric or attitude. From this, we can see that first impressions truly do matter.

However, this isn’t entirely up to me. As humans, we innately like to gossip and form cliques. We like to exclude. We like to treat other people like crap to make ourselves feel better. For the weak minded, those who do not realize how bad this is, they enjoy doing this and innocently ignore rhetoric, instead focusing too much on reputation. That is why they will listen to the person and not the reason. As reasonable as Hillary Clinton’s platform was compared to Trump’s, American voters were skeptical of hers because of her reputation. Ad hominem fallacy, perhaps? She could not be trusted because of Benghazi and her email servers. She was also felt to be a snake. Therefore, we decided to go with Trump, a man with little to say but at least he isn’t a snake like Hillary.

This truly tears me up. On one hand, I don’t want a snake ruling us and screwing us over when we least expect it. On another hand, I don’t want someone with little reasonability to rule us. So it really comes to what we trust more: rhetoric or reputation? This time, America chose reputation. But I would have chosen rhetoric. Why? I look for the good in people, and so I want their reasonable side leading us. We all make mistakes at times, whether guided by our fallacious selfish desires or our temporary lack of judgement. Such leeway to these mistakes should not just be given to the hoi polloi, but also be afforded for presidents, but we should not choose someone who is prone to folly all the time.

A more salient example of this struggle would be social media. Why won’t people like or retweet my posts but will retweet other people’s posts when we both say the exact same thing? It certainly doesn’t come down to the content, but rather the person writing the post. This infuriates me, because as Epictetus says, some things are up to us while other things are not. The things that are up to us? Our opinions, impulses, aversions. What is not up to us? Reputation, body, etc. He says we should not worry about what isn’t up to us. Well, we truly do care about who says something. As a result, I effectively become a crazy person talking to his own echo chamber. Many times I have disguised my identity and my words fare much better than when they are paired with my name. It is most unfortunate how human psychology improperly discriminates based on such unreasonable standards.

Something else wrong with what Epictetus says? Well, I am skeptical about his dogmatic conclusion. Chiefly, I cannot settle to ignore what isn’t up to us. My restless mind yearns to find a resolution to fix my reputation. The easy way is to start with a clean slate, but at what cost? I will simply have it spoiled again by my idiocy while appealing to the nonrational side of people.

As a last resort, I cease thinking about this (epoché). I plead for people to give me a second chance. It probably won’t happen. This is perhaps all made in vain, but I must try because otherwise I am emotionally disturbed, and this is the best I can do. Please, don’t put my reputation over my rhetoric. Similarly, don’t put other people over me because of their reputation. I know it’s hard, but at the end of the day, it’s not reasonable. You cannot call yourself a good person unless you cease being swayed by reputations. See through reputations and focus on impartial rhetoric.

What really matters?

Society

Some of you may remember a post I had made about rejection several months ago. Although I hastily wrote another post to ensure everyone that I was fine, true closure was never achieved. I hope this post shall rectify that.

I’ve come to realize that positions aren’t what matter; it’s your actions that do. Don’t be fazed by what others say you are and what you aren’t. Let what you do guide you, for what others say has no effect on what you can do, but what you do can have great effects on others.

It is your choice: what shall you do to create these great effects?

I think it’s silly that a year ago, I thought positions defined what we could do. In reality, I found out that it is quite the opposite. Whenever I accept a position, it is more of a trivial title that doesn’t mean anything. It is what I have achieved and what I intend to achieve that allows me to sleep at night in comfort. And when a position is denied from me, I laugh in the face of the deniers and proceed to do what I want to do. After all, if I really am determined to do something good for everyone, why would I let other people stop me?

Last year, when I was applying for officer positions in clubs, I had let the positions define what I could do. In hindsight, I had done more than the positions I had junior year. (And we weren’t even allowed to have positions as juniors.) I had always let my rejection from every single club define me, but others reminded me that I had done much more even when I wasn’t an officer.

When others asked a question, I would always respond if I knew the answer. If concepts in our classes didn’t make sense, I’d try my best to explain. During second semester, I was fortunate enough to help numerous fellow students with General Chemistry 2. Nobody had said I could do this. In fact, I was not even an official sanctioned tutor until later in the semester. Yet, did I care about being “officially sanctioned?” Was I doing it for the community service hours? No. I was doing it because I saw my calling. Did my actions make a difference? Yes. My passion, combined with my persistence, was what made me successful in doing what I wanted, and gave me true satisfaction in my role as a member of society.

And would those positions have made a difference? No.

Sometimes, we should step back and say “this is wrong.” Positions in society have come to (fallaciously) define what humans could do. This ranges from the caste system to political offices. The office itself does not make a difference; it is the holder of the office that truly makes the difference. Our perception that it is the position that matters and not what one is able to do has misled our society. Upon reflection, we need to place more emphasis on what people are able to do, as that is the true indicator of success. I hope that we as a society can implement this change. It starts with the smallest things around us. Let’s wake up and make this change.

Five years of boycotting Chick-fil-A

Society

My third ever post on this blog (back when the .xyz top-level domain did not even exist and I was on j.mywikis.org) was entitled “Why you should boycott Chick-fil-A.”

Chick-fil-A, and more specifically, the president of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, is choosing to discriminate homosexuals. While homosexuality may not be right in your opinion, I firmly believe this is more discrimination than belief. Dan Cathy has even said that he is “guilty as charged” for his opposition to homosexuality.

He (and his family) can obviously donate to anti-homosexuality groups, but putting his large company’s profits to a very controversial topic is a bold and threatening move that will obviously deter customers away from their shops, especially in liberal areas. I believe his actions are very wrong and I must criticize him of his wrongdoings.

Please do join me in the boycotting of Chick-fil-A. This is an outrage and definitely discrimination. I hope this all goes to rest soon. Chick-fil-A needs to realize that this isn’t something that a whole company should do; it should be more like a family culture.

–Jeffrey Wang, 2012, age 12

Let’s do a few things before I proceed.

First off, 12 year old Jeffrey, “discriminate homosexuals” doesn’t make sense. It’s discriminate against homosexuals. And the more proper term would be “members of the LGBT community.” Second, the second paragraph is more of a “no duh” point. Yeah, he can donate to anti-LGBT groups, but that doesn’t mean he should. And third, unfortunately it has not gone to rest. And no, not even family cultures should be heteronormative, Jeffrey. Shame on you! (Remember this was back in 2012 and that I was raised in a conservative city in Texas.)

Five years later, I’ve changed a lot. I’ve changed schools twice, each time met with new people. Plus, I’ve met new people elsewhere, whether digitally or in-person. I’ve been many places that are different than Texas. I’ve experienced a lot. In the time between that post from 2012 and this current post, gay marriage was legalized through the Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges. But there is one thing that has not changed, something that I steadfastly continue to do today: I still continue to boycott Chick-fil-A.

I’m going to elaborate on why I started my boycott, why I’m continuing it, and how I manage.



Why did I start my boycott?

Around 2011 or 2012, same-sex marriage became a contentious topic. At that time, it wasn’t legal nationwide. That means my opinion was quite unpopular back then, especially considering I lived in a quite conservative city and surrounding metropolitan area. News organizations revealed that Chick-fil-A was donating to gay conversion therapy groups (Exodus International), anti-gay hate groups (Family Research Council; considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a source of information for the FBI), Fellowship of Christian Athletes (an organization that should not belong in public schools per the principle of separation of church and state, and one that opposes gay marriage and gay bedroom activity through its pledge), and more organizations promoting heteronormative relationships and marriages. In fact, the mayor of Boston prevented Chick-fil-A from building a new location due to their homophobic attitude.

Although it appears from my limited sources of information that Chick-fil-A has ceased donating to all of the above except for FCA, that won’t cut it for me. FCA’s continued promotion of heteronormative relations and unwarranted intrusion into our schools is concerning and violates the principle of separation of church and state. One of the school districts where FCA is allowed to be an official club in schools is my former district, McKinney ISD. As a Buddhist, I am concerned that FCA can have a club simply because it’s so easy to find students and a sponsoring faculty member that are Christian, yet was probably the only Buddhist in the entire school, faculty included, until I left. My former ISD forces everybody in the audience to listen to Christian prayers (and no other religion’s prayers) during graduation. In fact, they have committed so many violations that they were censured by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and finally stopped some of the intrusions of religion into classrooms. Not all have been fixed yet, including FCA still being allowed to operate as an official school club. I remember New York City kicked out all religious institutions using public property, including Buddhist organizations. I fully support their decision to do so, especially the Buddhist organizations. I am fair and impartial to the principle of the separation of church and state. I don’t discriminate against Christianity; it just so happens to be the majority, and that’s why all this anti-gay hatred has been amplified by Chick-fil-A.

Why am I continuing it?

Since Chick-fil-A has continued to donate to amplify anti-LGBT organizations while proselytizing at each of their store locations, I cannot resume monetarily supporting them. Under their current management structure, they will always send money secretly to these anti-LGBT organizations. I think it’s very simple why I’m continuing my boycott: until the company is completely changed, I can’t give them my money.

How do I manage?

Well, first off, my family didn’t really go out that often when I was 12. When we did, I made sure to suggest plenty of other delicious options in our vicinity, such as Market Street, Pei Wei, Fuzzy’s, Mooyah, and other comparable establishments. I made it clear I wasn’t going to Chick-fil-A and that I would rather starve at home than go. Whenever you crave Chick-fil-A, think of a member of the LGBT suffering because they were harassed due to their sexuality or their marriage isn’t recognized, all perpetuated by entities like CfA. Still want to go? For every cent you spend at Chick-fil-A, donate two to the Trevor Project or the ACLU or the FFRF.

Nowadays, I don’t remember the taste of Chick-fil-A. I’ve overcome the addiction.

And while a few dollars might not seem like much for CfA to lose, at least your conscience can rest easy at night. Plus, give your support to businesses full of real people who share the same loving attitude that supports LGBT rights. Trust me, happiness doesn’t require a Bible or a chicken sandwich. If we all pitch in our money to other businesses, eventually CfA will lose money and less money will go to homophobic hate groups.

Would I go back to Chick-fil-A if they stopped donating to homophobic hate groups, changed their management structure, and made it transparent that they were pro-LGBT? Short answer: no. Long answer: if I have nothing to eat, my weight isn’t killing me, and someone innocently bought me a CfA gift card, then I’ll reluctantly go. And hopefully then donate $100 to the ACLU and the Trevor Project for my sins.

One-letter abbreviations for days of the week in Romance languages

Society

After some ramblings over the superior usage of R over Th to represent Thursday, I asked myself, how do other languages abbreviate it? Specifically, Romance languages?

In English, a Germanic language, when we use the one-letter system to denote days of the week, standard practice is to use the following:

  • M – Monday
  • T – Tuesday
  • W – Wednesday
  • R – Thursday
  • F – Friday
  • S – Saturday
  • U – Sunday

Days of the week follow a pattern among the various Romance languages. I’ll use Spanish and French as examples.

  • L – Lunes – Lundi
  • M – Martes – Mardi
  • ??? – Miércoles – Mercredi
  • J – Jueves – Jeudi
  • V – Viernes – Vendredi
  • S – Sabado – Samedi
  • D – Domingo – Dimanche

There is an ambiguity with the one-letter abbreviation of Wednesday in Romance language systems, because the words for Tuesday and Wednesday both start with the letter “M”. Since Tuesday comes first, it gets “M”. In order to maintain uniformity among the various Romance languages, I propose the following system for Romance language day of the week abbreviations, because of the lack of my knowledge in how it actually works in areas where Romance languages are used. (If this is actually how it is then I’ll be so happy for a good guess!)

  • L – Monday
  • M – Tuesday
  • C – Wednesday
  • J – Thursday
  • V – Friday
  • S – Saturday
  • D – Sunday

What I’ve learned from SwiftScore 2017

ProgrammingSchoolSociety

Although I did not take any AP exams this year (because I am taking college classes instead), the previous two years of AP score release were nerve-wracking and I could empathize with those who could not bear to wait a second further without spasming and relapsing into full-blown bleach chugging.

Okay, I’m kidding about the bleach. But the nervousness/anxiety is certainly relatable and I just couldn’t stand others being left in the dark due to their physical location.

So here is what I did. I used EarlyScores’ source code (written in PHP) and starting a “mirror” with a different name. This helps to reduce traffic on other score checkers (which is good, considering they get so overloaded), allowing everyone to check their scores as efficiently as possible.

On the days preceding AP Score Release 2017, I spinned up a 512MB DigitalOcean droplet and used a $15 credit I found online to reduce the costs down to nothing. The cost was only $0.007/hr, so I ended up spending less than $1.50 for a server than ran for like a week or less. I figured this would be fine. Then, I posted the details on Twitter and asked people to share. Retweets did occur before the day of score release, but there were especially a lot on score release day. A good chunk of traffic came from Twitter, followed by Reddit (advertising on r/APStudents). Direct sources were word-of-mouth spreading, which was surprisingly popular. I talked with someone from China, who said they were referred by their WeChat group.

All was ready.

On the morning of, I woke up at 6am CDT (all times from here on out will be in Central Daylight Time) to see if CollegeBoard had released the scores early. Nope. I was getting worried that they had blacklisted our IP addresses. Thankfully, that was not the case. Even though I had no news to expect, I was hoping for the best. Hopefully this would work.

Around 8am, the floodgates were opened by CollegeBoard and score checking began.

Our website immediately began timing out. For an hour, I was frantically scrambling around, trying to get it to work. The website kept timing out. I thought perhaps the code got screwed up somehow? No, that wasn’t the issue.

 

Around 9am (too late unfortunately), I deployed a secondary server and that helped get people flowing. Next time, I will be sure to deploy several servers, or better yet, use a Node.js-based solution instead to handle traffic much better and so we can have a message queue system instead of a everybody-try-at-once-and-everyone-fail-at-once system.

At 11am, I deleted the secondary server and reverted back to the first server.

Believe it or not, traffic actually peaked around 11am that day; the server had began to operate very smoothly beginning around 9:30am. This means that the primary issue with scalability does not lie in people accessing SwiftScore, but rather SwiftScore accessing CollegeBoard’s AP score checking website. Since the same server handling people’s requests also handled the score checking, this didn’t go too well in the beginning. However, as overall CollegeBoard AP score demands slowed down, SwiftScore began to function better. Hence, Node.js would’ve been better. Note that there is not much we can do about the CollegeBoard website crashing; at the end of the day, score retrieval uses a scraper and there’s simply no more efficient way to gather data.


A major issue with EarlyScores’ underlying scraping mechanism is that it doesn’t support “Can’t find your AP scores” issues, “Fill out your AP Profile” prompts, and “Accept the CollegeBoard Terms and Conditions” dialogs, the latter being the most common reason someone emailed me asking for manual score checking. I ended up implementing a T&C acceptance dialog in SwiftScore’s codebase and committed the code to EarlyScores’ codebase out of courtesy and gratitude.

Oh yes, and nobody cared about SwiftScore until actual score checking day. But this image below might change your mind.
Ah yes, that’s money. Holy crap, this earned a bunch of profits. I innocently ran an AdSense ad on the website, hoping for it to earn a few bucks. I didn’t imagine it’d actually generate this much money. And I didn’t spend a cent on server costs. And yes, I used the cheapest possible DigitalOcean droplet there is.

This has taught me an important lesson: monetizing the first hour requires a much more complex system (cough cough Node.js and message queuing), but after that, such a small-scale system is actually enough to process 50,000 requests spread out over a few days.

Out of gratitude for the amount of support shown to me by people from my former high school, I am pledging most of this AdSense payout to worthy causes in my former high school (except for the Living Roof Project—I’m sorry but this would only be a drop in a bucket), so if you’re from Boyd (GO BRONCOS!!!) and you have a good reason to use $50, and $50 would be significant, I’m donating this money to you. The rest is reserved for future SwiftScore costs of operation, including possible ad-free servers.

And a thank you to EarlyScores.com and my friends who have supported my efforts. I hope to help again next year!

 

SwiftScore 2017

SchoolSociety

Every year, around the beginning of July, CollegeBoard releases millions of students’ AP scores. Since there are so many scores to process, they have no choice but to segment the country into pieces and allow certain parts of the country to check scores before others. On odd-numbered years, it starts in the Northeast and ends in the Pacific states. On even-numbered years, this pattern is reversed. However, this becomes a huge annoyance and burden for those who want to check their scores as soon as possible.

During freshman year, I used a VPN. In sophomore year, I had a server hosted in California, so I just established an SSH tunnel to there and I could see my scores. Last year, I found EarlyScores.com, which was a service that allowed users to check their scores early. Since it was open source, I quickly set up another version on my California server and voilà, it worked as well. This was a great way to allow others who didn’t want to divulge their AP password but wanted to know their AP scores quickly.

However, these services can become quite inundated very quickly, preventing effective usage of them. That’s why this year, I’ve set up SwiftScore, which is free to use. Basically, I use a cloud hosting service that charges by the hour, so I only needed to set this up a couple of days in advance and I’ll cancel it immediately after everybody can start seeing their 2017 AP scores. This allows costs to be very low; so low that I’ll absorb them and provide these services for free. So far, I’ve set up one SwiftScore instance; I cannot publicly divulge its hosting information at this time.

SwiftScore is ready to be expanded and should be very versatile to replicate if needed. If demand necessitates more servers, I will create them on the fly and they will be available when needed. In fact, we will also have manual score-checking services that check scores upon release (like literally at 7am) and send them to users, all for free. VIPs will also be able to access a special, congestion-free server if needed. In case CollegeBoard blacklists our server’s IP addresses (since this service uses a web scraper to retrieve scores), we will either make new servers or switch providers to avoid any IP range blacklisting. The entire SwiftScore system is designed to be resilient, secure, and reliable.

The definition of harassment

Society

What constitutes harassment? That is the million dollar question that we as society have yet to answer. Yet it is an issue that plagues us everyday. With the advent of cyberbullying and the recent presidential election, the issue of harassment has become more pervasive in everyday life. However, how have we dealt with harassment? Sometimes, it seems impossible to deal with harassment. Other times, this word can be overused in cases where it may not be appropriate in some eyes. Although society can universally agree that certain speech is considered “hate speech”, “slander”, etc., what else is considered harassment? As members of society, we may be different from each other, but in today’s connected world, there needs to be a uniform, unequivocal definition of harassment that can be applied to every single person equally and fairly.

Yet there isn’t. And that’s an issue.

I’ve been bullied ever since I was 5 years old. I’m particularly sensitive, so some actions that may not seem uncomfortable to others in fact disturbs me deeply. Therefore, harassment has always been an important issue to me. (And of course, my motivating reason further demonstrates the disparity between individual perceptions of ethical behavior.) I have tried to combat harassment whenever I can, so imagine my surprise when I am denied the ability to collaborate with my peers to create a tool to combat harassment. That’s like being the world’s biggest pizza lover and not being allowed to join the International Pizza Club. (Probably doesn’t exist, but if it does, don’t @ me please.)

I applaud efforts to combat harassment, but I always ask how it is done. If you think about it, when’s the last time you could definitively guarantee that a certain controversial remark was considered harassment by Facebook and Twitter, the two most important social media networks in the United States? You cannot. That’s why the “report” button can feel like a black hole of complaints that are never resolved. We don’t have a clue whether something is considered harassment in Facebook or Twitter’s book.

When Facebook’s content moderation guidelines were recently leaked, they were absolutely appalling to me. The inconsistencies that I saw disgusted me. Something that is even more revolting? These guidelines had to be leaked, meaning they were kept private. Why would that be the case? This is not something Facebook should be hiding. How are we supposed to know exactly what Facebook considers okay and not okay? This is even worse than going through airport security, because at least the TSA has an online tool that tells you if something is allowed in carry-on, checked baggage, or not at all. Not to mention that harassment is something the world should deal with in a transparent, honest manner.

Just like HTML, ECMAScript, ISO standards, etc. are public knowledge, so should be the definition of harassment. There should be a standardized definition that anybody can contribute ideas and can help draft. This definition should be open-source, perhaps even public domain, and should be adopted by any organization that patrols content, including Facebook and Twitter. I urge entities that try to combat harassment to actually tell us what they consider harassment. There is literally no point in keeping this a secret. This is an issue we should tackle together, and there is much to be gained by collaboration on uniform specifications of what constitutes harassment. Otherwise, it’s like ordering pizza and not knowing what will be on it. Sure, the pizza dough might be made with some special recipe, but knowing whether there will be pepperoni or buffalo chicken or vegetables on the pizza is significant and should be public knowledge. In the same way, there must be transparency and consistency when dealing with the enforcement of important social norms such as anti-harassment.

My thoughts on the post-election nightmare

Society

I am so sick and tired of the combative, ugly rhetoric that far-left and far-right media organizations have deployed on multiple avenues of communication.

I’m sick and tired of the divisiveness, the name-calling, the propaganda-spewing, all of it.

While it’s clear that people don’t agree with each other, that doesn’t mean we have to devolve into elementary school-level pettiness in our arguments. What has happened to the voice of reason? So many legitimate issues have become de-legitimized by ad hominem attacks and propaganda. They fail to address the real issue at hand. Not one issue goes by today without being addressed by these one-sided, agenda-bearing media organizations through tirades of anger. Emotion and opinions, not facts, guide these publications.

My frustration also extends to publications that publish biased videos with facts that are cherry-picked to support the publication’s agenda. I’m not going to mention any names because I’m sure people will start arguing with me below, saying I’m wrong. I find whichever news source that doesn’t give me a heart attack is the one that I watch nowadays. But I wish that the people who use these news outlets would stop using them.

We cannot afford to add any fuel to the flame. We must return to middle ground so we can actually have a civilized discussion for the first time since the election. It’s a pipe dream right now, but hopefully we can work towards this goal.

Why MyWikis will no longer interview prospective employees

MyWikisSociety

This post applies more to my personal life than the events of my company, so I’ve decided to write about it here on my personal blog. That being said, according to the title of this post, it has led to changes within my company.

You may think that I spend every single living hour outside of academics on MyWikis. This simply isn’t the case. Aside from MyWikis, I have plenty of things to do. (To be honest, I originally was  extremely passionate about MyWikis’ mission, which is why I founded the company of course, but five years puts a heavy toll on your passion. Today, I’m not as fired up about MyWikis as I was five years ago. And that’s okay! So I spend it somewhere else.) Two days ago, I started up a Bukkit server. Recently, since I’m a student too, I’ve been studying for some upcoming tests. I’ve been going to college admission information sessions too, so I can get an inside scoop on college admissions. And yes, college essays. Plus, did I mention I’m doing paid summer research for ten weeks at UNT? Yeah, my plate is loaded. I’ll admit to that.

I also founded the TAMS Cybersecurity Association, so I have lots of work to do in order to prepare this club for the upcoming fall semester. The reason I decided to found it was because of a lack of focus on cybersecurity-related topics in the TAMS community. Furthermore, being rejected from every single club and organization’s officer positions to which I applied resulted in my freedom to pursue something else. Since I wasn’t bound to an existing club, I decided to bring unfulfilled passions to share with everyone at TAMS. But from my experiences of being rejected, I was humiliated by the gruelling interview process. The questions being asked, as well as the surprise tasks that we were asked to perform, resulted in this said humiliation. I really had to sell my soul for these interviews, to show my passion for these clubs (and yes, they were true passions). Until they said, “nope, we don’t think you’re good enough compared to others.” Awkward.

Did you see something wrong with the fact that I was setting up a Minecraft server? Yeah, I’m bored. Let’s be honest. I’m not exactly pleased with the idea of studying for a test, then going to do research for 10 weeks, right after I finished a gruelling semester. My company? I love it, but I can’t spend all day on it at this point. I mean, I guess I could, but it’s not as good as—working on a fresh idea that has potential.

So I called up some of my friends who were working on a project that was just that. Previously, I worked with one of them on an open source project. It no longer exists today as a service, but I didn’t regret a second of developing it. And it was so. much. fun! My expectation was that I could hop on as a part-time contributor. These friends of mine gave me a formal interview at Starbucks, akin to the extremely triggering experiences I had at TAMS club officer interviews. Okayy… I knew the route this was going, with my luck. Sure enough, the interview process turned out to be the final nail in the coffin instead of the cherry on top.

In case you don’t know how hurt I was by the overall TAMS officer selection process, below is an excerpt I’ve taken from that article.

Through all of the assistance and leadership that I have shown this year, I have been stabbed in the back by every opportunity. Nothing seems to matter anymore. Apparently, I am an annoying, unqualified, “blacklisted” student that nobody likes and nobody wants to be a leader… Whenever I compare TAMS to the outside world, I see how I can make a true difference in real life, where my assistance is not only appreciated, it’s rewarded. I consistently contribute my time with a non-profit, and unlike TAMS clubs, they don’t treat me as if I were utter shit.

I’ve since come to the realization that the interviews given for TAMS and this opportunity to contribute to a project (free of salary) were humiliating. To be exact, I realized this twice: when I left Starbucks and when I received the email that I was not welcome to help because of my preexisting commitments.

Interviews are humiliating.

It felt like an initiation where I was asked to humiliate myself. For fraternities, that’s called hazing. I don’t know what it’s called in this case.

When you open up, when you are interrogated, when you are asked to share things too personal and too meaningful to you, and then to see them all dusted away as if they were nothing, you are humiliated.

Furthermore, friends don’t conduct formal interviews with each other. These things are mutually exclusive. Or so I thought? When I asked friends to join my company and help out (and paid them—remember I didn’t ask for a single cent from this new venture), I never put them through a formal interview process. Sure, I knew them, but I didn’t even question their true proficiency in what’s required to work in my company, and they ended up doing their job very well. I have now realized that I don’t need to interview someone to get a good sense of how suitable they are for a job.

Realizing how destructive and dehumanizing interviews have been, I have decided to completely eliminate any form of interviewing for MyWikis jobs. That’s right. Starting now, I am not going to even ask for “your worst quality and your best quality,” which is an absolutely bullshit question. I don’t give a crap about that. Everyone has them; no need to embarrass ourselves. I do know, however, that someone will do a good job if they’re qualified. And I’ll figure that out through an objective, fact-based simulation of how someone handles their job and communicates with others. Oh, and I’m not going to have people humiliated by having “surprises.” Applicants will have ample time to prepare before they enter the simulation. And that’ll be their training if they are hired, which they will, because they will be capable.

One last thing I forgot to mention: keeping talent on retainer means giving flexible work times, which is exactly my company’s policy on work. Matthew McConaughey might be a professor at UT Austin, but he isn’t working there full time. Yet UT respects his talents and gives him free reign over how he manages his time while bettering his students and the community overall.

See here for an update to our recent job posting: https://www.mywikis.com/jobposting-2017-05-11

In order to determine fit within our current company, you will be asked to complete a MyWikis-administered simulation where you will collaborate with others.

As a result of our recently-implemented No Interview Policy, we will not interview you for this job.

I am extremely serious and conscious about how people are treated, even if I’m not able to develop a harassment-fighting AI. As I once said in a TAMS seminar, humanity cannot be automated. That’s why I place more emphasis on ways humans can improve their behavior and attention to emotion, not just how a machine can do so in a regulated way.

I hope the elimination of any form of formal interviewing in the MyWikis job application process will reduce humiliation—a form of harassment. Destiny’s ironic.