WordPress is one of the most popular tools in the Internet world, with one source estimating in January 2017 that it accounts for 50-60% of the Content Management Systems and that it runs 27% of the entire Internet. It also has made its creator, Matt Mullenweg, a multi-millionaire. Unfortunately it seems to be at least as popular among malicious hackers as it is among the rest of its users, and it apparently is constantly under attack by a large bunch of them, including a major one in mid-January.
We at Technology Bloopers would agree that, when not beset by these attacks, WordPress.org has provided us a simple way of publishing our content. Of course this came at the expense of having to work around the ambiguity of whether to install it at the root or elsewhere, the wretched (and sometimes downright wrong) advice of the “WordPress for Dummies” book, and the virtually unusable user forum. But we overcame these challenges and sailed along for three years … until now. Apparently we were lucky, as over one million sites were defaced. This and its two sister sites appears to be unaffected, although whenever we add a new post or update the versions of plugins, themes, or other features we have to take a detour from our usual path (apparently because our ISP has not repaired their own damage).
The incessant march of technology brings not only improved convenience but also often-scary invasion of privacy. “Big Brother” can now track your in-store habits, urge you on with stuff he already knew about you, and bill you without a checkout line. According to research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Joseph Turow, the same sort of surveillance of consumers that occurs when they shop (or do anything) online is now occurring when they shop in bricks-and-mortar stores.
And Amazon, not content to sell only books and other inorganic items, is trying to expand into the giant groceries business. While some categories of products can be sold online in the same manner of non-grocery items, fresh produce and other items for which consumers want to get up close and personal with them cry out for nearby stores. One of Amazon’s innovations is to embed products with tracking devices that charge customers via their smart phones, thus eliminating the annoying wait in checkout lines and the cost of cashiers. Not all the bugs have been worked out yet, but when they are, stores like Trader Joe’s better watch out.
But apparently it is even worse than that. We heard a couple of days ago about one local company that not only hired a bunch of Indian H1B visa-holders, fired their American staff, and replaced them with these imported folks … after they were trained by the Americans. And this noxious practice has apparently been going on for some time, according to the Stateline folks at The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Three months of coder school is not much training compared with that of the better-trained—often in American universities—and more-experienced visa-holders. But why are these American universities welcoming these foreign students? It’s because those students come bearing big funds for their education. (At state universities, it is simply that the international students must pay the same (higher) prices as out-of-state American students.) We have heard that among some of these students it is said that PhD stands for “Parents have Dough”. Interestingly, those international students are more prone to cheat on their exams. Hmmm … does that mean that their future code will be less trustworthy than that of Americans?
We wonder why the big Silicon Valley tech companies have not done a better job on their own of training software engineers. Couldn’t they be hiring “junior” software engineers from the coder schools and boosting their capabilities with on-the-job training. We suspect one reason is that it is more expensive to do that than to hire foreign help. And more time-consuming. And another reason may be that they didn’t do a good job of forecasting their growth and concomitant demand for those software engineers. Maybe the current visa flap will motivate them.
But it may not be the fault of these companies. Americans may too lazy, or too afraid to be “uncool”, to study STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) courses so there is not enough local talent to fill the needs of Silicon Valley. Graduates with strong STEM knowledge are polar opposites to “art history majors” , a term used derogatorily to connote enjoyable-but-low-paying jobs.
Assuming that President Trump does not otherwise solve the daunting challenge of employing all of the folks displaced by technology, he (or someone) should send a lot of the unemployed manufacturing people in the rust belt, and their offspring, to “Coding School” so they can write the software to run the robots, drive the gig economy, etc. There are lots of schools in Silicon Valley that teach coding; just search on “silicon valley schools to teach coding” to find ones for kids, for women, whatever. But there are few if you search on “rust belt (or Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, or Pennsylvania or …) schools to teach coding”. In fact there are so many coding schools (often called coding bootcamps) that it has become an industry in its own right, and that industry already has its own parasitic industry analyst, called Course Report, that lists nearly 400 such schools. The schools typically run for 3 months and cost $10,000 or more.
We at TechnologyBloopers are suspicious that a lot of them are sugar-coating the content and their graduates will not be expert enough to get software engineer jobs. And we are not the only ones. Fortunately, according to Douglas Belkin at the Wall Street Journal, some of the more-experienced coding schools have banded together and hired an outside auditor to track the how well their graduates do.
However, according to Christopher Mims at the Wall Street Journal, there is enough demand for people with SOME training, because there are a lot of companies that are computerizing their operations (medical billing seems to be one of the favorites) and are willing to let their existing coding staff spend some time bringing the new recruits up to speed.