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[Jan 11, 2020] Atomization of workforce as a part of atomization of society under neoliberalism

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... a friend of mine, born in Venice and a long-time resident of Rome, pointed out to me that dogs are a sign of loneliness. ..."
"... And the cafes and restaurants on weekends in Chicago–chockfull of people, each on his or her own Powerbook, surfing the WWW all by themselves. ..."
"... The preaching of self-reliance by those who have never had to practice it is galling. ..."
"... Katherine: Agreed. It is also one of the reasons why I am skeptical of various evangelical / fundi pastors, who are living at the expense of their churches, preaching about individual salvation. ..."
"... So you have the upper crust (often with inheritances and trust funds) preaching economic self-reliances, and you have divines preaching individual salvation as they go back to the house provided by the members of the church. ..."
Apr 18, 2017 |
DJG , April 17, 2017 at 11:09 am
Neoliberalism is creating loneliness. That's what's wrenching society apart George Monbiot, Guardian

George Monbiot on human loneliness and its toll. I agree with his observations. I have been cataloguing them in my head for years, especially after a friend of mine, born in Venice and a long-time resident of Rome, pointed out to me that dogs are a sign of loneliness.

A couple of recent trips to Rome have made that point ever more obvious to me: Compared to my North Side neighborhood in Chicago, where every other person seems to have a dog, and on weekends Clark Street is awash in dogs (on their way to the dog boutiques and the dog food truck), Rome has few dogs. Rome is much more densely populated, and the Italians still have each other, for good or for ill. And Americans use the dog as an odd means of making human contact, at least with other dog owners.

But Americanization advances: I was surprised to see people bring dogs into the dining room of a fairly upscale restaurant in Turin. I haven't seen that before. (Most Italian cafes and restaurants are just too small to accommodate a dog, and the owners don't have much patience for disruptions.) The dogs barked at each other for while–violating a cardinal rule in Italy that mealtime is sacred and tranquil. Loneliness rules.

And the cafes and restaurants on weekends in Chicago–chockfull of people, each on his or her own Powerbook, surfing the WWW all by themselves.

That's why the comments about March on Everywhere in Harper's, recommended by Lambert, fascinated me. Maybe, to be less lonely, you just have to attend the occasional march, no matter how disorganized (and the Chicago Women's March organizers made a few big logistical mistakes), no matter how incoherent. Safety in numbers? (And as Monbiot points out, overeating at home alone is a sign of loneliness: Another argument for a walk with a placard.)

Katharine , April 17, 2017 at 11:39 am

I particularly liked this point:

In Britain, men who have spent their entire lives in quadrangles – at school, at college, at the bar, in parliament – instruct us to stand on our own two feet.

With different imagery, the same is true in this country. The preaching of self-reliance by those who have never had to practice it is galling.

DJG , April 17, 2017 at 11:48 am

Katherine: Agreed. It is also one of the reasons why I am skeptical of various evangelical / fundi pastors, who are living at the expense of their churches, preaching about individual salvation.

So you have the upper crust (often with inheritances and trust funds) preaching economic self-reliances, and you have divines preaching individual salvation as they go back to the house provided by the members of the church.

[Jan 10, 2020] America's Hamster Wheel of 'Career Advancement' by Casey Chalk

Notable quotes:
"... Getting Work Right: Labor and Leisure in a Fragmented World ..."
"... The problem is further compounded by the fact that much of the labor Americans perform isn't actually good ..."
Jan 09, 2020 |

We're told that getting ahead at work and reorienting our lives around our jobs will make us happy. So why hasn't it? Many of those who work in the corporate world are constantly peppered with questions about their " career progression ." The Internet is saturated with articles providing tips and tricks on how to develop a never-fail game plan for professional development. Millions of Americans are engaged in a never-ending cycle of résumé-padding that mimics the accumulation of Boy Scout merit badges or A's on report cards except we never seem to get our Eagle Scout certificates or academic diplomas. We're told to just keep going until we run out of gas or reach retirement, at which point we fade into the peripheral oblivion of retirement communities, morning tee-times, and long midweek lunches at beach restaurants.

The idealistic Chris McCandless in Jon Krakauer's bestselling book Into the Wild defiantly declares, "I think careers are a 20th century invention and I don't want one." Anyone who has spent enough time in the career hamster wheel can relate to this sentiment. Is 21st-century careerism -- with its promotion cycles, yearly feedback, and little wooden plaques commemorating our accomplishments -- really the summit of human existence, the paramount paradigm of human flourishing?

Michael J. Noughton, director of the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, and board chair for Reel Precision Manufacturing, doesn't think so. In his Getting Work Right: Labor and Leisure in a Fragmented World , Noughton provides a sobering statistic: approximately two thirds of employees in the United States are "either indifferent or hostile to their work." That's not just an indicator of professional dissatisfaction; it's economically disastrous. The same survey estimates that employee disengagement is costing the U.S. economy "somewhere between 450-550 billion dollars annually."

The origin of this problem, says Naughton, is an error in how Americans conceive of work and leisure. We seem to err in one of two ways. One is to label our work as strictly a job, a nine-to-five that pays the bills. In this paradigm, leisure is an amusement, an escape from the drudgery of boring, purposeless labor. The other way is that we label our work as a career that provides the essential fulfillment in our lives. Through this lens, leisure is a utility, simply another means to serve our work. Outside of work, we exercise to maintain our health in order to work harder and longer. We read books that help maximize our utility at work and get ahead of our competitors. We "continue our education" largely to further our careers.

Whichever error we fall into, we inevitably end up dissatisfied. The more we view work as a painful, boring chore, the less effective we are at it, and the more complacent and discouraged. Our leisure activities, in turn, no matter how distracting, only compound our sadness, because no amount of games can ever satisfy our souls. Or, if we see our meaning in our work and leisure as only another means of increasing productivity, we inevitably burn out, wondering, perhaps too late in life, what exactly we were working for . As Augustine of Hippo noted, our hearts are restless for God. More recently, C.S. Lewis noted that we yearn to be fulfilled by something that nothing in this world can satisfy. We need both our work and our leisure to be oriented to the transcendent in order to give our lives meaning and purpose.

The problem is further compounded by the fact that much of the labor Americans perform isn't actually good . There are "bad goods" that are detrimental to society and human flourishing. Naughton suggests some examples: violent video games, pornography, adultery dating sites, cigarettes, high-octane alcohol, abortifacients, gambling, usury, certain types of weapons, cheat sheet websites, "gentlemen's clubs," and so on. Though not as clear-cut as the above, one might also add working for the kinds of businesses that contribute to the impoverishment or destruction of our communities, as Tucker Carlson has recently argued .

Why does this matter for professional satisfaction? Because if our work doesn't offer goods and services that contribute to our communities and the common good -- and especially if we are unable to perceive how our labor plays into that common good -- then it will fundamentally undermine our happiness. We will perceive our work primarily in a utilitarian sense, shrugging our shoulders and saying, "it's just a paycheck," ignoring or disregarding the fact that as rational animals we need to feel like our efforts matter.

Economic liberalism -- at least in its purest free-market expression -- is based on a paradigm with nominalist and utilitarian origins that promote "freedom of indifference." In rudimentary terms, this means that we need not be interested in the moral quality of our economic output. If we produce goods that satisfy people's wants, increasing their "utils," as my Econ 101 professor used to say, then we are achieving business success. In this paradigm, we desire an economy that maximizes access to free choice regardless of the content of that choice, because the more choices we have, the more we can maximize our utils, or sensory satisfaction.

The freedom of indifference paradigm is in contrast to a more ancient understanding of economic and civic engagement: a freedom for excellence. In this worldview, "we are made for something," and participation in public acts of virtue is essential both to our own well-being and that of our society. By creating goods and services that objectively benefit others and contributing to an order beyond the maximization of profit, we bless both ourselves and the polis . Alternatively, goods that increase "utils" but undermine the common good are rejected.

Returning to Naughton's distinction between work and leisure, we need to perceive the latter not as an escape from work or a means of enhancing our work, but as a true time of rest. This means uniting ourselves with the transcendent reality from which we originate and to which we will return, through prayer, meditation, and worship. By practicing this kind of true leisure, well treated in a book by Josef Pieper , we find ourselves refreshed, and discover renewed motivation and inspiration to contribute to the common good.

Americans are increasingly aware of the problems with Wall Street conservatism and globalist economics. We perceive that our post-Cold War policies are hurting our nation. Naughton's treatise on work and leisure offers the beginnings of a game plan for what might replace them.

Casey Chalk covers religion and other issues for The American Conservative and is a senior writer for Crisis Magazine. He has degrees in history and teaching from the University of Virginia, and a masters in theology from Christendom College.

[Jan 02, 2020] The Purpose Of Life Is Not Happiness: It s Usefulness Happiness as an achievable goal is an illusion, but that doesn t mean happiness itself is not attainable by Darius Foroux

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... "The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well." ..."
"... Recently I read Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton. It's about Peter Barton, the founder of Liberty Media, who shares his thoughts about dying from cancer. ..."
Aug 22, 2019 |

For the longest time, I believed that there's only one purpose of life: And that is to be happy. Right? Why else go through all the pain and hardship? It's to achieve happiness in some way. And I'm not the only person who believed that. In fact, if you look around you, most people are pursuing happiness in their lives.

That's why we collectively buy shit we don't need, go to bed with people we don't love, and try to work hard to get approval of people we don't like.

Why do we do these things? To be honest, I don't care what the exact reason is. I'm not a scientist. All I know is that it has something to do with history, culture, media, economy, psychology, politics, the information era, and you name it. The list is endless.

We are who are.

Let's just accept that. Most people love to analyze why people are not happy or don't live fulfilling lives. I don't necessarily care about the why .

I care more about how we can change.

Just a few short years ago, I did everything to chase happiness.

But at the end of the day, you're lying in your bed (alone or next to your spouse), and you think: "What's next in this endless pursuit of happiness?"

Well, I can tell you what's next: You, chasing something random that you believe makes you happy.

It's all a façade. A hoax. A story that's been made up.

Did Aristotle lie to us when he said:

"Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence."

I think we have to look at that quote from a different angle. Because when you read it, you think that happiness is the main goal. And that's kind of what the quote says as well.

But here's the thing: How do you achieve happiness?

Happiness can't be a goal in itself. Therefore, it's not something that's achievable. I believe that happiness is merely a byproduct of usefulness. When I talk about this concept with friends, family, and colleagues, I always find it difficult to put this into words. But I'll give it a try here. Most things we do in life are just activities and experiences.

Those things should make you happy, right? But they are not useful. You're not creating anything. You're just consuming or doing something. And that's great.

Don't get me wrong. I love to go on holiday, or go shopping sometimes. But to be honest, it's not what gives meaning to life.

What really makes me happy is when I'm useful. When I create something that others can use. Or even when I create something I can use.

For the longest time I foud it difficult to explain the concept of usefulness and happiness. But when I recently ran into a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the dots connected.

Emerson says:

"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."

And I didn't get that before I became more conscious of what I'm doing with my life. And that always sounds heavy and all. But it's actually really simple.

It comes down to this: What are you DOING that's making a difference?

Did you do useful things in your lifetime? You don't have to change the world or anything. Just make it a little bit better than you were born.

If you don't know how, here are some ideas.

That's just some stuff I like to do. You can make up your own useful activities.

You see? It's not anything big. But when you do little useful things every day, it adds up to a life that is well lived. A life that mattered.

The last thing I want is to be on my deathbed and realize there's zero evidence that I ever existed.

Recently I read Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton. It's about Peter Barton, the founder of Liberty Media, who shares his thoughts about dying from cancer.

It's a very powerful book and it will definitely bring tears to your eyes. In the book, he writes about how he lived his life and how he found his calling. He also went to business school, and this is what he thought of his fellow MBA candidates:

"Bottom line: they were extremely bright people who would never really anything, would never add much to society, would leave no legacy behind. I found this terribly sad, in the way that wasted potential is always sad."

You can say that about all of us. And after he realized that in his thirties, he founded a company that turned him into a multi-millionaire.

Another person who always makes himself useful is Casey Neistat . I've been following him for a year and a half now, and every time I watch his YouTube show , he's doing something.

He also talks about how he always wants to do and create something. He even has a tattoo on his forearm that says "Do More."

Most people would say, "why would you work more?" And then they turn on Netflix and watch back to back episodes of Daredevil.

A different mindset.

Being useful is a mindset. And like with any mindset, it starts with a decision. One day I woke up and thought to myself: What am I doing for this world? The answer was nothing.

And that same day I started writing. For you it can be painting, creating a product, helping elderly, or anything you feel like doing.

Don't take it too seriously. Don't overthink it. Just DO something that's useful. Anything.

Darius Foroux writes about productivity, habits, decision making, and personal finance. His ideas and work have been featured in TIME, NBC, Fast Company, Inc., Observer, and many more publications. Join his free weekly newsletter.

More from Darius Foroux

This article was originally published on October 3, 2016, by Darius Foroux, and is republished here with permission. Darius Foroux writes about productivity, habits, decision making, and personal finance.

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[Jan 02, 2020] Since 2008, we've been witnessing a "reverse stagflation", i.e. low unemployment with low wages (a phenomenon which is impossible according to modern bourgeois economic theory).

Jan 02, 2020 |

vk , Dec 31 2019 18:38 utc | 32

Here's another evidence capitalism has reached a stagnant level of both technological progress and birth rates:

Over-65s to account for over half of employment growth in next 10 years

Workers aged 65 and older will be responsible for more than half of all UK employment growth over the next 10 years and almost two-thirds of employment growth by 2060, according to new figures.

Since 2008, we've been witnessing a "reverse stagflation", i.e. low unemployment with low wages (a phenomenon which is impossible according to modern bourgeois economic theory).

The reason for this is what I mentioned earlier: no more technological progress and negative birth rates. The USA is still benefitting from mass immigration from Central America, but this demographic bonus won't last for much: now even the Third World countries are barely above the minimum 2 children per woman (including most of Latin American nations). Only a bunch of African nations (which have high mortality rates either way, so it doesn't matter) and India still have the "demographic bonus" in a level such as to be capitalistically viable.

This problem is not new in cotemporary history. It happened once: in the USSR.

In the 1970s, only 6% of the Soviet population was necessary to produce everything the USSR needed, so the only solution available was to expand the economy extensively, i.e. by reproducing the same infrastructure more times over.

The problem with that is that the USSR had reached its limits demographically. Its population growth entered into stagnant to negative territory. Decades passed until the point where it didn't even matter if they came up with a revolutionary technology, since there were simply not enough children to teach and train to such new tech. Add to that the pressure from the Cold War (which drained its R&D to the military sector), and it begun to wither away.

Now we can predict the same thing is happening to capitalism. Contrary to the USSR, the capitalist nations had the advantage of having available the demographic bonuses of the Third World - specially China - to maintain their dynamism even when some countries like Japan and Germany reached negative birth rates. Now China's demographic bonus is over and also much of Latin America. To make things even worse for the capitalists, China managed to scape the "middle income trap" and go to the route of becoming a superpower, thus adding to the demographic strains of the capitalist center.

The solution, it seems, is to do pension reforms and force the old people back to work. France is going to destroy its pension system; Brazil already did that; the USA was a pioneer in forcing its old population to work to the death; Italy destroyed its pension system after 2008; the UK is preparing the terrain now that its social-democracy is definitely destroyed.

Patroklos , Jan 1 2020 2:49 utc | 65

Posted by: vk | Dec 31 2019 18:38 utc | 32

As always I find your application of Marxist critique succinct and correct. This coming decade, with its unravelling of the financialization phase of our current phase of capitalism (i.e the US consolidation phase following British imperialism, c.1914-2020s), will be its terminal decade. The signal that we had entered the financialization phase were the shocks of 1970-73, and the replacement of industrial manufacture (i.e. money>commodity>money+x, or M-C-M') with finance/speculation (i.e. money>money+x, M-M') has unfolded more or less according to Marx's analysis in Capital vol.3. This is as much a crisis of value creation as anything else. In Australia (where I am) the process is particularly transparent: we have almost no manufacturing sector left and so we exchange labour-value created in China for mineral resources and engage in the ponzi-scheme of banking and property speculation, which produces no value whatsoever. Either way the M-C-M' phase in Australia has vanished and government dedicates itself to full-spectrum protection of the finance economy and mining. All the while a veneer of productivity is created by immigration, which destroys cities (because there's no infrastructure to accomodate them), inflates prices and creates the illusion of 'growth'. This is propped up by a media who perpetuate xenophobia by creating panic about refugees (5%) while saying zip about the fact that Australia only has economic growth at all because we bring in 250K new consumers every year. This collapsing financialization phase will only accelerate this decade and we will wake to find we don't make anything and have crumbling 1980s-era infrastructure: Australia will suffer badly as the phase plays out, not least because of a colonial-settler looting mentality around the 'economy' that persists at every level of government.

What I like about the point you're making in your post (#32) is the wider expansive question of productivity -- or, how do we continue to produce value? It is often overlooked that Marx sought to liberate human beings from expropriative labour of every kind (which occurred as much under the Soviets as it does today); this means that capital's aorta connecting labour to value via money must be severed (rather than the endless attempts to reform capitalism to make it 'fairer' etc, a sell-out for which Gramsci savaged the union movement). The relation between work and value must be critiqued relentlessly. To salvage any kind of optimism about the future we need to invest all our intellectual energy in this critique and find a radically new way of construing the link between time, labour and value that does not include social domination.

In the meantime the scenario to which you have drawn our attention -- the parasitic vampirism now attacking the elderly and the retired -- is an inevitable consequence of our particular moment in late capitalism, hurtling at speed toward a social catastrophe of debt, wealth inequality, neo-feudalism and biopolitical police state, all characterized by an image of 70-year-olds trudging to work in an agony of physical suffering and mental meaninglessness which will end in a forgotten grave.

[Jan 01, 2020] FDA Failed to Police Opioids Makers, Thus Fueling Opioids Crisis

Jan 01, 2020 |

FDA Failed to Police Opioids Makers, Thus Fueling Opioids Crisis Posted on January 1, 2020 by Jerri-Lynn Scofield By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

I had hoped to welcome 2020 with a optimistic post.

Alas, the current news cycle has thrown up little cause for optimism.

Instead, what has caught my eye today: 2019 closes with release of a new study showing the FDA's failure to police opioids manufacturers fueled the opioids crisis.

This is yet another example of a familiar theme: inadequate regulation kills people: e.g. think Boeing. Or, on a longer term, less immediate scale, consider the failure of the Environmental Protection Agency, in so many realms, including the failure to curb emissions so as to slow the pace of climate change.

In the opioids case, we're talking about thousands and thousands of people.

On Monday, Jama Internal Medicine published research concerning the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) program to reduce opioids abuse. The FDA launched its risk evaluation and mitigation strategy – REMS – in 2012. Researchers examined nearly 10,000 documents, released in response to a Freedom of Information ACT (FOA) request, to generate the conclusions published by JAMA.

As the Gray Lady tells the story in As Tens of Thousands Died, F.D.A. Failed to Police Opioids :

In 2011, the F.D.A. began asking the makers of OxyContin and other addictive long-acting opioids to pay for safety training for more than half the physicians prescribing the drugs, and to track the effectiveness of the training and other measures in reducing addiction, overdoses and deaths.

But the F.D.A. was never able to determine whether the program worked, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found in a new review, because the manufacturers did not gather the right kind of data. Although the agency's approval of OxyContin in 1995 has long come under fire, its efforts to ensure the safe use of opioids since then have not been scrutinized nearly as much.

The documents show that even when deficiencies in these efforts became obvious through the F.D.A.'s own review process, the agency never insisted on improvements to the program, [called a REMS]. . .

The FDA's regulatory failure had serious public health consequences, according to critics of US opioids policy, as reported by the NYT:

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis, said the safety program was a missed opportunity. He is a leader of a group of physicians who had encouraged the F.D.A. to adopt stronger controls, and a frequent critic of the government's response to the epidemic.

Dr. Kolodny, who was not involved in the study, called the program "a really good example of the way F.D.A. has failed to regulate opioid manufacturers. If F.D.A. had really been doing its job properly, I don't believe we'd have an opioid crisis today."

Now, as readers frequently emphasize in comments: pain management is a considerable problem – one I am all too well aware of, as I watched my father succumb to cancer. He ultimately passed away at my parents' home.

That being said, as CNN tells the story in The FDA can't prove its opioid strategy actually worked, study says :

Although these drugs "can be clinically useful among appropriately selected patients, they have also been widely oversupplied, are commonly used nonmedically, and account for a disproportionate number of fatal overdoses," the authors write.

The FDA was unable, more than 5 years after it had instituted its study of the opioids program's effectiveness, to determine whether it had met its objectives, and this may have been because prior assessments were not objective, according to CNN:

Prior analyses had largely been funded by drug companies, and a 2016 FDA advisory committee "noted methodological concerns regarding these studies," according to the authors. An inspector general report also concluded in 2013 that the agency "lacks comprehensive data to determine whether risk evaluation and mitigation strategies improve drug safety."

In addition to failing to evaluate the effective of the limited steps it had taken, the FDA neglected to take more aggressive steps that were within the ambit of its regulatory authority. According to CNN:

"FDA has tools that could mitigate opioid risks more effectively if the agency would be more assertive in using its power to control opioid prescribing, manufacturing, and distribution," said retired FDA senior executive William K. Hubbard in an editorial that accompanied the study. "Instead of bold, effective action, the FDA has implemented the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy programs that do not even meet the limited criteria set out by the FDA."

One measure the FDA could have taken, according to Hubbard: putting restrictions on opioid distribution.

"Restricting opioid distribution would be a major decision for the FDA, but it is also likely to be the most effective policy for reducing the harm of opioids," said Hubbard, who spent more than three decades at the agency and oversaw initiatives in areas such as regulation, policy and economic evaluation.

The Trump administration has made cleaning up the opioids crisis – which it inherited – a policy priority. To little seeming effect so far. although to be fair, this is not a simple problem to solve. And litigation to apportion various costs of the damages various prescription drugmakers, distributors, and doctors caused it far from over – despite some settlements, and judgements (see Federal Prosecutors Initiate Criminal Probe of Six Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors ; Four Companies Settle Just Before Bellwether Opioids Trial Was to Begin Today in Ohio ; Purdue Files for Bankruptcy, Agrees to Settle Some Pending Opioids Litigation: Sacklers on Hook for Billions? and Judge Issues $572 Million Verdict Against J & J in Oklahoma Opioids Trial: Settlements to Follow? )

Perhaps the Johns Hopkins study will spark moves to reform the broken FDA, so that it can once again serve as an effective regulator. This could perhaps be something we can look forward to achieving in 2020 (although I won't hold my breath).

Or, perhaps if enacting comprehensive reform is too overwhelming, especially with a divided government, as a starting point: can we agree to stop allowing self-interested industries to finance studies meant to assess the effectiveness of programs to regulate that very same industry? Please?

This is a concern in so many areas, with such self-interested considerations shaping not only regulation, but distorting academic research (see Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Ruling that George Mason University Foundation Is Not Subject to State FOIA Statute, Leaving Koch Funding Details Undisclosed ).

What madness!

[Jan 01, 2020] Gig workers getting screwed

Jan 01, 2020 |

c1ue , Dec 29 2019 16:19 utc | 3

Gig workers getting screwed. Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it - the modern gig economy is nothing more than the "putting out" system redux from the early days of the industrial revolution.
And much like the looms and thread from the putting out system, the owners control pricing for gig workers as well as cut off any possibility of upward advancement.
Vice article on gig workers
Note this isn't one company - it is all of them. When Uber first started, they were paying over $1/mile for drivers - it is now down to $0.60. Equally, the various other gig startups pay more to lure workers in, then cut when they need/want to.
When she initially joined Instacart a year ago, Dorton says she could earn up to $800 during a 40 hour workweek picking up groceries at Costco and Sam's Club and dropping them off at customers' homes. But in recent months, her weekly income has fallen to $400 for 60 hours of grocery shopping. "I made more delivering pizza and waiting tables," Dorton told Motherboard.

Yes, but with the delivery services contributing to the everlasting restaurant crunch, there are fewer jobs delivering pizza and waiting tables. That's a feature.

[Jan 01, 2020] Time for PhD supervision

Jan 01, 2020 |

by Ingrid Robeyns on December 29, 2019 Some aspects of academia show great international variation. There is one on which I haven't found any good data, and hence thought I'll ask the crowd here so that we can gather our own data, even if it will be not very scientifically collected.

The question is this: if you are a university teacher/professor and your department awards PhD-degrees, do you get any official time allocated (or time-compensation) for PhD supervision? If it is part of a teaching load model, how many hours (or % teaching load) is it equivalent to? Or is there an expectation that you take on PhD-students but that this does not lead to a reduction in other tasks?

How do international practices of the conditions for PhD-supervisors compare?

In my faculty (Humanities at Utrecht University, the Netherlands), all supervisors together (which generally are two, sometimes three) are collectively given a teaching load reduction of 132 hours in the year follow the graduation of the PhD-candidate. So your teaching reduction upon successful graduation of a PhD-candidate tends to be 66 hours. For the supervisory work you effectively do in the four years prior to graduation, there is no time allocated; so you effectively do this in your research or your leisure time.

To put this into perspective: most (assistant/associate/full) professors teach 50-70% of their time, and a fulltime workload is 1670 hours, or 1750 hours if you are saving for a sabbatical. This can be reduced if you have major managerial tasks (e.g. Head of Department) or if a large part of your wage is paid by a research grant. So without reductions, we teach about 835-1190 hours a year (this includes the time for preparation and examination, but frankly, one always needs more than the teaching load models allocate for a given course. And in general there are no TAs or other support staff to help with the practical sides of teaching).

For writing the grants that are almost always needed to create the jobs for PhD students (with success rates now around 15%), and for supervising those who in the end do not get their PhD degree, there is no time put aside for the supervisor/applicants. That time also goes, effectively, from our research time, or, more realistically, from our leisure time.

Recently, I heard from a British colleague and a Swedish colleague their models for PhD-supervision, which were way more generous (and rightly so in my view), so thought I'll throw the question on the table here: what, if any, time-compensation/teachingreduction do you get for supervising PhD students?

I am not trying to suggest here that without adequate time set aside for doing this work, it would not be worthwhile supervising PhDs. There are in many cases other forms of rewards for the work one does as a PhD supervisor. One might be the honor of supervising PhDs, and in most cases the intrinsic rewards of the supervisory process – the satisfaction of seeing a young person take their first steps as a scholar, and being able to play a crucial role in this process. There is , after all, a reason why the Germans call their PhD-supervisor mein Doktorvater or meine Doktormutter – since yes, there is this element of helping someone to grow, in a cognitive and professional sense. Professionally, there are few people who had so much influence on me as my PhD-supervisor, and I am hoping that some of my (former) PhD-students will think the same at some point in their lives. So it would be wrong to frame it merely as a burden, since there is the intrinsic value of the rather unique professional relationship. But that cannot be a reason to not give PhDsupervisors the time they need to properly supervise, given how severe time pressure in academia is. I see this as a real tension.

In some academic fields, there may be professional research benefits for the supervisors, such as becoming co-authors on the publications the PhD-students write under your supervision. I recently examined a PhD-thesis in medical ethics, and all chapters (being articles published or under review) had been co-written with several members of the supervisory team. Even raising the funds to hire the PhD is sometimes seen as sufficient reason to be listed as a co-author. In the humanities there is no such a thing: we don't put our names on articles of our PhDstudents, even if we contributed significantly to the development of that piece (rightly so in my view).

I'm posting this because I am interested in the international comparison in its own right, but also because of its relevance in discussions on higher education policies which are currently very intense in the Netherlands, on which I'll write another blogpost later.

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Chris Bertram 12.29.19 at 9:45 am ( 1 )

In my part of my university each PhD student earns her supervisors around 60 notional hours/1600 total per annum, but that's usually divided 5/1 between two supervisors, so that the person actually doing the work has about 50 hours, so slightly over an hour/week given annual leave etc. My greatest beef with this is when we admit non-anglophone PhD students. Since they officially have a level of competence in English as a condition of their admission, they do not get any extra time for supervision. But in practice, their work takes much longer to read and you have to put a lot of work into improving their English.
Mike Beggs 12.29.19 at 10:18 am ( 2 )
In my faculty (Arts and Social Sciences at Sydney) the primary supervisor gets 40 hours per year and an auxiliary supervisor gets ten. (There is some flexibility for the 50 total hours to be divided differently.)

In a recent survey of faculty staff with a response rate of around 30%, most reported spending longer per primary supervision: the median was 50 hours.

There's actually a growing literature on academic time use. Kenny and Fluck have published a series of papers based on a large survey of Australian academics. The median reported time spent supervising a higher degree student per year was 60 hours over all discipline groups, 50 hours for Arts, Law and Humanities. (Kenny and Fluck 2018 'Research workloads in Australian universities', _Australian Universities Review_ -- and the companion papers on teaching and admin workloads are also worth googling for the full results over lots of tasks.)

Matt Matravers 12.29.19 at 10:31 am ( 3 )
When we tried to establish a "norm" at the University of York, it turned out that practice varied widely not only across faculties, but within the arts and humanities and social sciences. Some departments simply included it in "research time" and gave zero extra time, others gave a (more-or-less generous) "teaching" allocation. So, I am not sure you can get any useful comparisons even at an institutional level let alone internationally.
Currently, in the Law School at York, a PhD student – during the period of registration (i.e., only for the first 3 years) – earns her supervisors around 80 notional hours of teaching per year. This is split across the supervisory team in proportion to their involvement.
Many colleagues think this is insufficient, in particular with non-anglophone students and it can be particularly galling if one is putting a lot of work into the final "writing up" year.
For what it is worth, I found this very hard to manage when I was Head of Department (and so responsible for workloads). The issue for me was that in many cases senior colleagues had several PhD students and (some) junior colleagues none (or very little involvement. This was back in the day of most students have one supervisor.). Modelling a system where PhD supervision was "properly" rewarded (that is, where I tried to allocate hours in accordance to the amount of time it actually took) resulted in a very hierarchical department where (roughly) senior colleagues did PhD supervision and junior colleagues taught undergraduates. So, I didn't do it.
For what it is worth (addressing the wider issues of workload), it seems to me that there is an inevitable gap between a workload system conceived of as a mechanism of "counting" (how many hours does this job actually take?) and conceived of as a mechanism of "distribution" (how much work is there to be done and how many people to do it?). Of course, the distributive principles cannot stray too far from the realities revealed in counting, but it (seems to me at least) perfectly okay to think that the distributive principles include other considerations like the "shape" of the department, individual "goals" (having PhD students is good for promotion at York) and personal development, gender, and so on.
Finally, this problem does not seem to be unique to PhD supervision (the current "hot topic" at York is how to count/distribute time for research grant writing, which at the moment is simply included in individual research in most, but not all, departments). York tried to introduce a workload model across the university and never managed it because departmental variations were so huge (in everything from whether/how to include teaching preparation time to how to rank administrative tasks). That said, this may be the result of our particular institutional history (until recently, we had a very flat structure with only relatively autonomous departments and no faculties).
Faustusnotes 12.29.19 at 10:48 am ( 4 )
In Japan as far as I know there is no allowance at all, and senior staff (the professor who is the official supervisor) often dump all supervisory responsibility on the most junior staff. There is also often no limit on how many PhD students the professor can take on (and dump on their assistant prof). This is particularly bad with masters students, whose theses are much more time limited and challenging to supervise.

I don't know if it's a general thing but my colleagues in China tell me they are only allowed a PhD student if they publish above a certain level – PhD students are treated as a valuable asset you need to struggle to get. (I think they are paid by the uni but don't quote me). In the universities I know of in China the PhD student has to publish to graduate (sometimes like 3 papers) so the benefits to the supervisor are obvious.

I'm in public health where publication is relatively easy and quick. I don't know how it is in other disciplines (but the Japanese professor dumping his responsibilities on junior staff is quite common across disciplines as far as I can tell).

Harry 12.29.19 at 12:34 pm ( 5 )
It's not part of a workload model for us. We're expected to teach 2 classes a semester (8 contact hours a week total), then research, service, and graduate supervision on top, but the only thing that is specified is the 2 classes. So no compensation for PhD students. In practice the number of PhD supervisions varies greatly across faculty (as you'd expect), as does the amount of service work we do (if you're good at it you get asked to do more, if you're tenured and responsible you generally try to say yes), as does the amount of time we actually spend on the courses we teach.

As do our salaries, to be fair, which reflect years of service, perceived quality of research, how much the people elected to the department budget value the other things we do, and, to some extent, market forces.

What I've described is my own department. There's huge variation across campus, including variation in numbers of courses we're expected to teach.

Possibly worth mentioning that from what I have gathered expectations of how many courses we teach have fallen dramatically (across campus) over the past 50 years, and the number of course releases granted have increased dramatically: I estimate faculty in the humanities teach 30% less than 50 years ago, and in the sciences 50% less. I imagine this is similar across public research universities and SLACs.

notGoodenough 12.29.19 at 1:47 pm ( 6 )
So, purely anecdotal and from the perspective of a PhD and post-doc in Science at 2 different, fairly well thought of UK Universities (Russel group, etc. etc.).

PhD students are highly valuable. This is because a Masters or summer student are necessarily short term, and it is difficult to fulfil much breakthrough research (sometimes you need a few years of banging your head against a wall ). Post-docs are phenomenally expensive as in the UK as the University charges a huge amount just to have them – e.g. a rough breakdown (from some years ago, so a little out of date) is to just have a post-doc (i.e. no equipment, materials, etc.) is in excess of £110K per year. Some 31000 is for salary, the rest goes to the University to keep the lights on. Having more than a few post-docs, for all but the most successful labs, became prohibitively expensive.

However, as a PhD most of my time was with my post-docs (in my first year I saw my professor once, for 1hr, in later years maybe a few times more, so approximately 15 hr over 3.5 years). As a post-doc, the PhD students had regular meetings in a group format once per month (so, more or less 2-3 hr per month). In both cases it, in principle, was possible to go and meet the supervisor if you felt the need, but generally speaking your post-doc was the point of contact on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis.

I've not been a lecturer, so this is very speculative, but my impression is that supervising PhD students is generally considered a research activity, and thus you are not budgeted time for it specifically.

Not sure if any of this is useful, but feel free to hit me up for more details if you think it is useful/interesting.

Karen Anderson 12.29.19 at 2:03 pm ( 7 )
I taught for 15 years at 3 Dutch universities, 3 years at a Russell Group university in England, and am now at an Irish university. I did my PhD in the United States. Like the other posters, I have experienced wide variation in 'compensation' for PhD supervision. One of the reasons I left my position at a British university was the bizarre (and I thought, unfair) model for workload allocation. PhD supervision was highly 'compensated', and actual classroom teaching of undergrads was not. I had colleagues who met all or most of their teaching obligations with PhD supervision and did not teach undergrads.
I don't know what the best way to compensate PhD supervision is, but there are a couple of aspects I think need more attention. The first is wide variation in the number of PhD students in any given department and the rules/norms governing who is (de facto) permitted to supervise PhDs. Dutch departments have fewer PhD students than UK/Irish departments (for complicated reasons), and only full (and now associate?) profs are permitted to supervise. PhD supervision is important for promotion (as it is in the UK and IE), so everyone wants to do it, but not everyone has access. I am not sure that an activity that is so important for career progression should be generously compensated.
The second issue concerns co-authoring with a PhD student. I can see the advantages of this (which Ingrid mentions), but the proliferation of the article-based PhD where the supervisors co-author all articles is a cause for concern. Again, I am not convinced that a PhD supervisor should be generously compensated for something (publications) that strongly advances their own career. And it is not clear to me that the supervisor's contribution to the publication (in many cases, at least) amounts to more than what would be considered 'normal' PhD supervision in the US, Canada, and many European universities. This makes it very difficult to evaluate a newly minted PhD's CV, and it inflates the publication list of more senior academics.
A couple of ideas: 1) cap the number of PhD students that staff can supervise, or at least cap the number for which teaching points are earned. 2) ensure that all academic staff have access to PhD supervision.
praisegod barbones 12.29.19 at 4:32 pm ( 8 )
Private university in Turkey : the basic assumption here is that supervising PhD students and MA theses takes zero time (although people typically budget an hour per week per student.
Neville Morley 12.29.19 at 4:50 pm ( 9 )
The workload allocation for Humanities at the University of Exeter is similar to Chris's account of Bristol (where I worked previously), though it's more common for the hours to be divided 70/30, 60/40 or even 50/50 between first and second supervisors, with the latter playing a much more active role. The biggest difference, however, is that you continue to receive an allowance when the student is writing up, and even if they're revising after a first examination, whereas the Bristol practice was, at least, that you get a workload allowance for the first three years and then nothing for the period which in my experience often required the greatest amount of work
Phil 12.29.19 at 5:50 pm ( 10 )
I haven't – yet – supervised a doctoral student, but I did examine a viva this year & was surprised to find that this carried no workload allowance at all, which seems odd given the amount of reading time involved. (Fortunately I wasn't mad busy.)
likbez 12.29.19 at 7:10 pm ( 11 )
40-60 hours are typical. They do not compensate for the effort but still.
oldster 12.29.19 at 7:16 pm ( 12 )
Former US academic; taught at a few R1 uni's from 80s to aughts.

To echo the doughty Puritan: " the basic assumption here is that supervising PhD students and MA theses takes zero time."

We had a standard teaching load, and expectations for research and service. But there was no calculation of supervisory load -- it simply was not tracked, budgeted, or accounted for. As Harry says above, there were wide disparities from person to person, since some people attract a lot of grad students and some do not (and some repel them, either for strategic purposes, or because they are repellent no matter what they try).

No one cared whether you supervised 15 PhD students or zero. Not quite true -- there was some unofficial awareness among colleagues who thought collegially about things. And you might get some private thanks or informal kudos for doing more than your share. But there was absolutely no official account of it. And this was true at all 3 R1s I taught at over several decades.

That's partly because -- in a Humanities field -- the funding of grad students does not follow the prof, but the program as a whole. So, Central Admin knows that your department is training 25 PhDs, because Central Admin has to figure their tuition, stipends, etc. But the money then flows to your department as a whole, with no closer investigation of who in your department is doing the work.

The picture must be radically different in the Sciences, where there is literal accounting of PhD students, since they are supported by the professor's grant-money.

hix 12.29.19 at 8:08 pm ( 13 )
Surely there are other ways to offload work to PhD students one would otherwise have to do oneself besides getting research recognition for their thesis. How much of that is possible should also vary across countries. So a comparsion of alocated supervision time only seems a bit one sided.
John Quiggin 12.29.19 at 10:07 pm ( 14 )
As regards co-authorship, my PhD students and postdocs are often keen to include me on the theory that a paper with a more senior author will have a better chance of acceptance. My impression is that, in economics, the expectation is that the main job market paper will be sole-authored or else co-authored with another junior researcher, but that others are likely to be co-authored with the supervisor.

To complicate things further, economics (like philosophy, I believe) works on average quality rather than total contribution. So, a publication with a student in a journal lower ranked than my average paper is actually a negative for me.

Matt 12.29.19 at 10:38 pm ( 15 )
I assume that "Harry" above is Harry B of the blog. If so, he's showing why comparisons w/ the US on this will be hard, if not impossible. In many countries, there is a weird fantasy that academics can and should be treated like hourly employees, with "hours" assigned to things. (This is certainly so in Australia.) Of course, it's a fantasy in that, if it in fact takes a lot more "hours" to do the things you're assigned, you don't get over-time, comp time, or paid more. The other down-side is that this system leads, in my experience, to more micro-managing – being expected to "account" for your time to a much greater degree. The US system treats academics more like salaried employees – you get paid a certain amount, you have certain tasks to do, and you must do them (some of them at particular times, like teaching classes) but otherwise you're not dealing with "hours" for things. The down-side is that there can be lots of variation in how much work people actually do – even teaching the same "number" of classes can vary a lot depending on the number of preps, size, how often you've taught it, if you have TAs, etc., and having more advisees may not lead to more recognition on its own. The plus side is that less time is spent on being mico-managed and bureaucratic nonsense. The relevant point here, though, is that it's really hard to make a comparison like the one asked for between systems where one treats academics more like hourly employees and the other more like salaried employees.
Gabriel 12.29.19 at 10:52 pm ( 16 )
My wife (a New Zealand academic with confirmation) is allocated a. 24 hours per year for supervising PhD students. She trusts that the ludicrousness of this number is not lost on those present.
billcinsd 12.30.19 at 1:39 am ( 17 )
I am a Professor in an Engineering discipline at a small, state engineering school in the US. Our workload is departmentally determined. My department is fairly small, ~100 undergrads, but does quite a bit of research. My nominal workload is 40% teaching, 40% research and 20% service. This is based on 40 working hours per week. My effective workload is 46% teaching, 8% advising (both undergrad and grad), 23% overseeing my funded research projects and about 25% service. This is more than 100%, which is true for almost all faculty at my school.

Thus, I estimate how much time I spend doing various things and then convert that to credit hours, as my contract is specified in terms of 18 credit hours of work per semester, making a credit hour about 2 hours and 40 minutes

Kevin 12.30.19 at 2:11 pm ( 18 )
In Technological University Dublin (formerly Dublin Institute of Technology), supervision of a full-time PhD student attracts a time allowance of 2 hours per week (48 hours per annum), from a weekly teaching load of 16 contact hours for lecturers (18 hours for assistant lecturers). So, for example, a lecturer with two full-time PhD students will allocate 25% (4 hours) of his / her weekly contact teaching duties to this role.
Michael Dunn 12.30.19 at 2:45 pm ( 19 )
In my department (at Uppsala University, Sweden) the workload norm is 88 hours per year supervisory time for the main supervisor and 20 for the assistant supervisor. This time includes the face-to-face hours, as well as reading, commenting, etc. The split can be done differently to reflect other kinds of co-supervisory arrangements. This seems very generous compared to what others are reporting, which is sad, since an average of 1 hour meeting, 1 hour reading per week for 44 weeks in a year would work out as very minimal supervision -- and supervisors typically spend much more time on supervision related tasks than this.
Johan Karlsson Schaffer 12.30.19 at 4:44 pm ( 20 )
A couple of years ago, I did a survey of the formal teaching duties at polisci departments at Scandinavian universities for a report published by the Swedish Institute for Labour Market Evaluation. The survey looked at the formal percentage of teaching duty for senior lecturers and full professors, and the formal compensation in terms of hours allotted for various teaching activities (e.g., lectures, supervision at different levels, examination and so on).

We found, first, that the formal teaching duty varied quite a lot across Scandinavian universities, but that all Swedish universities had less generous conditions than Danish and Norwegian universities, which came closer to the Humboldtian ideal of unity of teaching and research.

Second, by multiplying teaching duty and compensation for a standard set of teaching activities, we found that the consequences for the individual lecturer could be quite drastic: over a hypothetical career from age 35 to retirement at 67, a lecturer at the least generous university could have ten whole years more of teaching duty than their colleague at the most generous university.

The report is, unfortunately, only available in Swedish, but the graphs and tables (which also includes detailed information on the compensation for PhD supervision) should be rather self-explanatory.

Here's a blog post summary of these findings that include the most important graphs:

Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 12.30.19 at 6:53 pm ( 21 )
I'm an Associate Professor in Computer Science at a US R1 university.

As Matt says, the description in Ingrid's post is totally unlike how things are thought of at all in US universities. My load is 40% research, 40% teaching, 20% service, which is standard for tenure-track faculty in my department (and I think across departments here). The standard teaching load is 3 courses per year (2 in one semester, 1 in the other). However, there are several exceptions to this: before tenure, faculty are assigned only 2 courses per year. Also, if you support (with external grant funding) 3 PhD students or post-docs in the previous year then you only teach 2 courses the next year. Additionally, pre-tenure faculty are asked to do considerably less service.

Furthermore, there are several additional differences that are relevant. First, and most importantly, the distinction between "research" and "PhD supervision" does not exist in science. Effectively all of my research is joint with PhD students, although sometimes they are not "my" students, but those of my collaborators. Second, not all students are funded by grants; PhD students can also be funded by teaching. So it's possible to have one or two students without bringing in funding. Third, there's a strong expectation that training PhD students is part of the job, you wouldn't get tenure/promotion/etc if you just didn't do it.

Z 12.30.19 at 8:33 pm ( 22 )
In my institution, you don't get any teaching load reduction, whereas you do get a tiny but non-zero reduction for supervising a master thesis, or even an undergraduate research project. I believe that is the norm in France in science in general, and most likely overall. The logic behind that choice is that supervising a PhD student is supposed to bring its own benefits: the student will do a lot of lab work for the superviser, the superviser will cosign the research papers etc.

In math (my own field), there is no lab work to be done and the French tradition is that papers drawn from the PhD should be signed by the student alone, so the arrangement is quite unfavorable to us.

On the other hand

So without reductions, we teach about 835-1190 hours a year

Did I read that right? Can you clarify how many hours are counted for one hour in front of the students? That number looks like madness to me (and I have a heavy teaching load myself).

CdnNew 12.30.19 at 9:11 pm ( 23 )
Canadian math prof:

"Highly research-active" profs teach one fewer course per year. There is some flexibility as to how to maintain this designation, but typically you must have at least 2 active graduate students at any given time (and meet various other requirements).

Going through our standard courseload: if you ignore the other work related to maintaining status, your first two Ph.D. students are worth about 90 hours/year, and the remainder are worth nothing.

likbez 12.31.19 at 12:57 am ( 24 )
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

John Quiggin 12.29.19 at 10:07 pm @14

As regards co-authorship, my Ph.D. students and postdocs are often keen to include me on the theory that a paper with a more senior author will have a better chance of acceptance.

This is an important point. I agree that it is somewhat dishonest to use your post-grad students to increase you number of publications. But it should be weighted against the real difficulties of young researchers to get their papers published. And the fact that sometimes brilliant papers from them are rejected. Nobody can abolish clan behavior in the academy. And the "academic kitchen" is pretty dirty, and takes years to understand ;-).

Sometimes publishing oversees helps here, and young researchers should keep this in mind. For many foreign journals, just the fact that you are a foreigner from a prestigious university is a plus that weights on the acceptance.


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