The Unspoken Melancholy of the Prodigy

However loaded with superabundant talent, Hamilton was a mass of insecurities that he usually kept well hidden. He always had to fight the residual sadness of the driven man, the unspoken melancholy of the prodigy, the wounds left by his accursed boyhood. Only to John Laurens and Eliza Schuyler did he confide his fears.

— Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton

Culture Fit is Easy! One Amazing Interview Question to Make Sure That New Hire Won’t Challenge the World View of Your White Male Staff

The decade of the twenty-teens is an exciting time for employers, and many are taking advantage of a hot new metric for judging the people around them: Culture Fit. But what does that mean to you and your organization? Lots of people have their own ideas, but most of them can be boiled down to a simple mission: Protect the status quo.

Here is one incredible question that will make it clear if you’re interviewing a ticking time bomb that could challenge your staff with new ideas at any moment.

What is one thing you believe that most people do not?

Their answer to this one magical question is everything you need to know. The ideal candidate should be able to separate themselves from the public, without distinguishing themselves from everyone they’re about to work with.

Over the years, I’ve asked this question countless times myself. Here are a few of my favorite answers:

Tech is a meritocracy.

It benefits me when my employees believe this.

MongoDB is web scale.

Spoken like a true web programmer.

Pie Jesu Domine.

Dona Eis Requiem.

Give this question a try during your next interview, and I guarantee you’ll be shocked by the results. In no time at all, your workplace will feel like the frat house of your 20s.

How to Hire That Rockstar Developer That Will Ride Your Unicorn to a Series E

It’s no secret that the secret to a multi-billion dollar valuation is that one lone-wolf rockstar diva of an engineer. A real straight shooter with a penchant for craft beer and a knack for explaining the “technically possible.” If you get that one hire wrong, then the only one joining the billionares of the world will be someone else, and what good is that? This guide will help you make sure that that first engineer is a truly brilliant insufferable bastard.

1. Be Corrected In The Interview

The more obscure the subject is, the better. Someone who truly understands how to build a product that will carry you through all those funding rounds won’t hesitate to quibble over tiny details. If you find yourself in an introductory interview being corrected by a Rails developer on the differences between a L2 and an L3 cache in an Itanium 2, you know for sure that you’ve got yourself a proper first-rate asshole. Hire immediately.

2. Watch Out for Concessions

Phrases like “that’s a good point” or “I hadn’t thought of that” are big red flags. “What do you think?” is the worst of them all. Your first engineer needs to have all of the answers to every problem immediately, with no question left unanswered. Any alternative should be shot down with prejudice immediately. This absolute unwavering certainty will give you confidence when your investors ask why you’re going back for another round.

3. Lights Out!

Your first engineer shouldn’t tolerate having the lights on in their workspace, unless it’s the soothing glow of properly syntax-highlighted JavaScript. The low light will help you obscure your degrading revenue forecasts next time your investors ask for a tour of the office, and the lower power bill might just help you extend your runway for that last crucial hour.

4. Hiring and Firing

Try not to worry about your employee turnover rates. Instead you should be monitoring how much your new employees are learning from the ones who are about to quit. Categorize everyone into the following three buckets:

  1. 25%: Senior engineers who are at the end of their rope. These people make up the bulk of your pager rotation, so make sure their salary is as small as you can get away with, to maximize hours worked per dollar spent.
  2. 75%: Junior engineers who started last week. They should be onboarded by the first group, so you’re not distracting the last group:
  3. The badass product-shipping code ninja who doesn’t take shit from anyone. Don’t distract this person, there are deadlines at stake.

These categories will be very important once the first group quits, and the second group gets laid off.

Good luck with your unicorn! It’s a growing market, for sure.

Love Your Background in Java/Cloud Tech—Are You OK?


I’ve attempted to reach you, but I have had no success. Either you’ve been bitten by a zombie or you’re hiding in a bunker. If you have been bitten by a zombie, my deepest sympathy goes out to your family members.

I hate to keep bugging you, but I do want to express my desire to chat with you more about whether or not our Senior Software Engineer role may be a fit. If you’re still alive, one of the following is more likely to have happened:

_____ Yes, I’ve been bitten by zombies. Please send the antidote.

_____ No, I haven’t been bitten by zombies, but you may wish I had been because I’m not interested. Sorry, it’s everyone for themselves. (I appreciate the candor. I can handle it.)

_____ Yes, I’ve been infected by the Cordyceps Virus and I’d love to pick your brain…

_____ Yes, I have some interest in learning more about the Senior Software Engineer role. Sure let’s chat.



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6 Easy Steps to Publishing the Perfect First Post for the Blog You’ll Abandon Next Month

Congratulations on your blog idea! Now you’ve made a WordPress account and reviewed every setting. You’ve bought a domain, set up Google AdSense, a Twitter account, and a YouTube channel, installed all the plugins you’ll need, and picked a theme that really whipped your brand into shape. You’ll be basking in that minor internet celebrity status and telling your boss to take a hike in no time.

But there’s one last thing: The First Post. Even though you’re expressing your opinions to nobody yet, it’s also the first thing everyone will see, out there for anyone to read at a moment’s impulse. You’d better make a captivating first impression. Your career is riding on this.

Here are six steps to make sure your first post sets you up for all that sweet blog traffic.

1. Make sure your readers understand that this is the first post on a blog.

Don’t just jump into your content yet. Your readers want to see behind the scenes. Start from the beginning, with how you decided to start a blog, and go from there.

2. Tell us about the subject of your blog.

Remember that idea you had? Now’s the time. Unleash that sucker on the world! This will be the ticket out of office work for sure.

3. Schedule the post.

Not so fast on that Publish button! Schedule the launch of your new blog for tomorrow at noon. You can’t post immediately after you finish writing it, it’s 1:30am. Nobody’s awake! They all have work tomorrow, and so do you.

4. Add a countdown clock to the big launch.

Everybody loves a good launch. Build a landing page, and add a countdown timer to build excitement. You can do it with some free JavaScript from this Stack Overflow post: The simplest possible JavaScript countdown timer? [closed]

5. Post about it on Facebook.

Your friends and family will click on anything you make, so that should be some easy readership right there. Go for it.

6. Promise to update regularly.

Tell your readers when to come back for fresh content! You should be updating weekly, at least. Daily would be better, and if you spit out a dozen posts in the first 48 hours of being live, that momentum might just last you for the rest of the month.

Difficult Gifts

I have to confess that this whole week I was pretty snobby about when I entered scenes and who I’d play with. My 301 class is amazing and I love improvising with them, but some of the open workshops and jams I went to have a much more mixed crowd. Many of them are just trying it for the first time, and lately I’ve avoided playing with them.

I’m not proud of that. Not only was I there myself less than six months ago (and it’s not like every scene I do now is some groundbreaking revolution in the performing arts either) but I actually think they’re the ones who are going to help me get better at this.

Part of improv is making others look good. “When you make others look good, you look good.” But if people get better at things by practicing pushing themselves with bigger challenges, then it’d make sense that you get better at improv when it’s more challenging to make your scene partner look good.

And really, if you’re actively listening and giving your scene partner the benefit of the doubt, there’s plenty to unpack in bad improv and terrible offers. Maybe your scene partner is nervous. You have the option to throw them under the bus by acknowledging the performer’s nerves, or to make them look good by accepting that part of the offer too. Their character is nervous, and the performer is just doing an amazing job of portraying that.

When your scene partner stops in the middle of a line to tell the audience “I don’t know…” keep your filter up and hear it from the perspective of your character. This is just a person who’s nervous and doesn’t know.

When they panic and turn to shock comedy in the middle of a classroom scene, that’s fine, it really happened in this world. Your character is shocked, because that’s what they were going for. Cut to the PTA meeting where the parents are demanding that they be reprimanded for the outburst. Cut to the playground where the kids are practicing all these fun words they just learned.

Even if they totally freeze up, that’s a lot. Characters freeze up sometimes too. Maybe this is just someone who needs a pat on the back and a little support from a friend.

I think truly committing means being able to handle a scene partner who’s fumbling, not only without breaking your own character, but by learning to spin what they do into the reality yourself. When their nervousness or panic comes through, listen to it through the lens of your character. There’s plenty to work with if you accept it. The show must go on. Don’t let someone else drag you out of the reality you’re building.

Good improvisers are really easy to play with, and are great for helping beginners learn what they’re supposed to be doing and gain some confidence. But it doesn’t take long before it becomes tough to even gauge your own skill level when you’re performing with people who are better at it than you are. You do a good scene and walk away feeling like “this is easy, I can do anything” because they’re good at making you look good. That’s the point.

If I’m never challenged, am I actually improving? Having good scenes with other good improvisers only means that someone there brought the good stuff, but it doesn’t tell me much about my own contributions. On the other hand, if I can share a stage with a brand new improviser, or someone who consistently forgets everything they know as soon as the lights come up, and we can still have entertaining scenes, isn’t that more meaningful feedback?

#comedy, #improv-comedy

From Improv4Humans – Ask the UCB: Playing Gay Improv Characters

From Improv4Humans:

In this bonus Ask the UCB episode, Matt Besser, Seth Morris, Eugene Cordero, and Will Hines discuss playing gay improv characters and improvising with what you know.

This reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from last weekend. We were doing a series of two-person scenes where each of us gets an emotion-related suggestion that the other doesn’t know. The suggestion that I got was sappy romance, and I gather that the emotion my scene partner got was some kind of fear.

The scene involved my character pleading for his partner to come around to my side of a subway platform so that we could be together. We found a game where he would confess to something terrible, I would try to forgive him, and then he’d freak out thinking I was just messing with his head before confessing to something even worse. Repeat.

I say he because my scene partner himself was male, and nothing about his offer specifically said otherwise about his character. So I went with the least surprising option. At some point I think I named him Jimmy.

I don’t think my scene partner ever specifically identified my character’s name or gender, because it was never really important. His character was focused on his own past actions, and my character was focused on him, so that’s how we identified each other. Maybe half the audience thought we were a gay couple, and the other half thought I was playing a woman in that scene. If he’d specified something one way or another, then it’s my job to take that on, but until then, the audience gets to fill in the blanks with what they want to get out of the scene.

In this case it just never became important to answer that question, and that strikes me as a good thing.

#improv-comedy, #improv4humans