Open Thinkering


Tag: diversity

The New Nepotism

Nepotism in action
Nepotism in action

Nepotism is a word which is ordinarily used pejoratively. That is to say, nobody wants to be accused of it.

nepotism, n. unfair preferment of or favouritism shown to friends, protégés, or others within a person’s sphere of influence.

The old version of nepotism was guilty of saying, “You’re my friend from the tennis club so I’m going to give you this unrelated opportunity”.

People were given jobs independent of aptitude or talent. It was all about connections and relationships within a very small network. It’s the reason sinecures were so common until the mid-20th century.

Nowadays we like to think we live in a meritocracy. Despite the modern origin of the word being satirical, we equate being meritocractic with ‘fairness’. We’re probably correct in that assumption.

However, the hiring practices this has led to are sub-optimal. I’m not sure there’s a single person who would design the system we’ve got if they were doing so from scratch.

Yes, it’s illegal in many jurisdictions to even ask on an application form about someone’s age, gender, race, or sexual orientation. This is a step forward for equality. Great! The really sad thing is that it often leads to bland mass of undifferentiated application instead of truly embracing diversity.

As a result, for better or worse, people have found ways to bypass stifiling recruitment practices. The New Nepotism says, “You’re my friend / former colleague from a previous project/organisation. We successfully created something awesome together, so I’m going to give you this related opportunity.”

I’m guilty of having received opportunities through New Nepotism. I’m also guilty of giving them. My point with this post is to say that we’ve got a twin-track system where one track is the direct result of the other. We look for colour and diversity through relationships that we’ve already established because CVs and application forms are so limp and lifeless.

Perhaps we could move beyond New Nepotism through a system like Open Badges? No two human beings are truly alike, so why should their credentials? As soon as we have a system that truly captures the value of people’s experiences, then we can hire based on talent and experience rather than who you’ve already happened to work with and know.

Image CC BY-NC Andy B

Google: excellence and diversity?

Quentin Hardy, Forbes:

Your day begins with a wake-up call from your Google Android phone. As you run to the shower, you hit Google News and check headlines, then Gmail. Your first appointment of the day has been moved to a new location; Google Maps will direct you there. Quickly update your expense report–including the printout of that sales presentation using, say, Google Template–and shoot them to the back office in India (in Hindi, if you prefer, with Google Translate). Your boss wants to discuss your group’s contributions to some marketing documents? Lean on Google Groups. You’re not even out the door yet. You have the rest of the day to search for work-critical information on the Web while you’re at the office–to say nothing of snatching a few moments to download a game, check stock prices, organize your medical records, share photos and pick a restaurant and movie for the evening. How convenient.

I love Apple stuff. I love Google stuff even more because it’s free, is often the best solution, and most of the time promotes collaboration and sharing. However, I’m a bit concerned that they could know a little too much about me. Here’s the Google stuff I use currently:

  • Google Chrome web browser
  • Google Apps (personal)
  • Google Apps Education Edition (at work)
  • Google Picasa
  • Google Product Search
  • Google FastFlip
  • Google Maps
  • Google Dictionary

I wasn’t very far away last month from purchasing AlertMe Energy for our house. This uses Google PowerMeter to show how much energy you are using at home. It’s better than the LCD display we’ve got currently, but I was a bit uneasy about it – for the same reasons that I would be about using Google Health.

It’s all very well using the best stuff, but at what cost? All it would take is a government requisition of the data from one company and, if I used Google PowerMeter and Health in addition to the products I already use, they could know:

  1. What I’ve been looking at online.
  2. The names of my family and friends.
  3. Where I’ve been recently.
  4. Who I’ve been communicating with and what about.
  5. What I look like, as well as what my friends and family look like.
  6. My political bias.
  7. How much energy I’ve been using at home.
  8. My health record.

I think that’s too much information to put into the hands of one company, even if there mantra is Don’t be evil.

So I won’t be buying an Android phone. I won’t be buying AlertMe Energy (or any other service that uses Google PowerMeter) or using Google Health either.

I have to say that it’s a potential problem, not an actual one at the moment… I’ll keep you updated.

Further reading: