Recruiters just don't get it

Recruiters just don't get this "ethics" thing, do they? With this behaviour, Charterhouse Partnership have joined my recruiter blacklist.

Yesterday I got this email from "Principle Consultant" Paul Roberts:

Good Afternoon,

I hope you don't mind the approach, I am emailing you as you have been
or are currently registered with Charterhouse Partnership. I am
currently working for a valued client and in such a tight candidate
market feel it correct to pursue every avenue on their behalf,
including possible referrals.

The role I am currently recruiting is a Tax Specialist for a unique,
global organisation listed on the ASX and headquartered in North
Western Sydney. They have experience exceptional growth and hence
increased complexity in their business, resulting in a newly created
position as Tax Specialist. The role will work with an existing Tax
Manager on tax compliance and planning issues across Australia and
Asia Pacific. A package of between $80k - $100k is on offer, the role
would suit someone with 1-4 years Australian tax experience.

I am actively seeking candidates for the role so if you know of anyone
that may fit the criteria please forward this email on to them
straight away. If you can recommend a friend or colleague and they are
successfully placed by Charterhouse Partnership (minimum 3 months),
you will be rewarded with a $250 voucher of your choice.

Paul Roberts
Principal Consultant

When I complained an demanded they remove me from my database, I got a perplexed reply, showing that he clearly doesn't understand why I think spamming me to do his job for him is unacceptable.


I will happily remove you from our database but I don't think you have
taken note of the email title or it's content.

It was aimed at generating candidate referrals IE people you may know
with Tax experience, NOT approaching you about directly about a Tax

Good luck in the future.

So the only reason I'm in this recruit scum's database is because I've applied for a job at some point in the past. So keeping it in their database is solely for the purpose of finding me a job. If they have a relevant position for me, I'm happy for them to contact me. Offering me special offers and asking me to shop my mates around is not part of the deal.

How is this different from him sending me vouchers to save money at the supermarket?

I guess given the compensation model of recruit scum, this shouldn't be surprising. They have little incentive to avoid poisoning the well if it might help them do their job. Soon enough, they'll have their commission and move on. The company, however, won't be so lucky.

The downside of hub gears

Last night I discovered the downside of hub gears when I went to ride off from work and discovered my rear wheel was flat as a pancake. Getting the wheel out is quite an operation on my commuter bike. It seems to have track dropouts which means you have to remove chaintugs (held in place with tiny nuts mounted in a place that's hard to access with a portable bike tool), remove the nuts and grippy bits holding the wheel on (no quick-release skewers here, you need a spanner), remove the chain, remove the gear cable, remove the brake and finally slide the wheel out.

Then when you're putting it back in, adjusting is quite the operation. I can't work out what the tension needs to be -- it seems to be either too tight or too loose, and the brakes are all wrong.

This sucker's gonna have to go into the monkey tonight. I might ask about these tugnuts to make at least one of the jobs easier, and make adjustments a hell of a lot easier. And they have a bottle opener!

Estate agents lie: SHOCK

Estate agents who willfully underquote houses going to auction will apparently get big fines with a new investigation. It won't be hard for them to find examples. Say, a 2-bedroom house quoted as "over $500,000" in an area which hasn't seen a house sale under $560,000 in the last six months. The real classics are the ones where the reserve price is higher than the price quoted as the guide price.

The Office of Fair Trading is going to have trouble though, as agents can easily point to "market factors" being responsible for their errors. In a soaring or crashing market, this could well be true. What's more, if an individual property captures the hearts of a few people, it could well go for much more than its market worth.

I have a quick and easy solution. The agents have to quote a price to the sellers. Force them to publish that price whenever they advertise the property. Then third parties can keep a league table of the agents: how close their estimates were. That will keep the bastards honest!

How bad decisions get made

Here's a little anecdote from personal experience about why bad decisions sometimes end up happening, then staying around. I'm not quite sure how big companies can institutionally resolve this kind of problem.

Those of you who know me well know that I'm opinionated. I don't mind telling people that something is shit if that's what I believe. I carry a lot of this into my work, and I think it's why I'm good at what I do. I care about my work, passionately, which means I'll defend my corner of an argument. Not to say I can't change my mind, but you've got to convince me.

Much of my most recent project has involved wrangling copy into shape to go online, checking it sticks to the company's style guide and professed commitment to staightforward communication. This can be difficult when you're dealing with people who are used to a certain, legalistic style of language.

There's nothing about legally-correct text that requires it to be convoluted and difficult for the ordinary human being to understand, but that seems to be the default setting for lawyers. They have their own set of very precise linguistic tools to say exactly what they mean in a minimum of words. You can translate this into very clear, very accurate language that is parseable by mere mortals, but it takes time and energy.

This has been my job for the last while. It can be exhausting work, but it's also quite rewarding when you've managed to wrangle a site into something that contains no sneaky weasel words, no sneaky "conditions apply", excising all asterisks and other symbols pointing to impenetrable fine print, in an industry that is more confuspoly than anything else.

So anyway, on to my point. At one stage we were working on system requirements copy for the broadband products. These specify the usual things that are actually requirements to run Internet Explorer, nothing really to do with the hardware and service we supply. As some kind of concession to a small minority of the marketplace, we seem to also list versions of Mac operating systems.

I went to the product manager involved and suggested we change it from requirements to just saying what we support. I suggested some copy along the lines of "if you know what you're doing, you'll have no trouble connecting with other operating systems but please understand we can't support you with these operating systems". After all, it's just TCP/IP and the hardware we supply has ethernet coming out. I pointed out the very enlightened approach used by Internode.

Now this is an issue I care about a lot. There's really no reason this company couldn't support other operating systems, at least for knowledgable users. What's more, there's no reason other operating systems can't use the service, so limiting the "system requirements" is actually incorrect.

But in the end, the product manager won the argument, because it was the end of a very long cycle of "discussions", and I was worn down. We needed to get things moving, and all parties were pretty over the process. So the site still says something incorrect, misleading even. We might even be losing some customers, though I guess Linux and BSD users are used this and ignore it routinely anyway.

It's not something I'm happy about, but it's also not something I'm willing to revisit. I'd have to use up some of my reputation in the company, throwing my weight around on what really isn't an earth shattering issue. It still bugs me, but the idea of going back to it makes me feel world weary.

This is how the world can grind you down.

Thieving scumbags

Two "news" sites have stolen one of my photos from the last Glastonbury. Fortunately Google News makes it easy to find such infringements. Does this or this look familiar to you?

They'll be receiving invoices shortly.

If you're going to Glasto this year, I'm very jealous. Looks like you'll need your wellies!

Tip for people thinking of returning to Australia

If you're thinking of moving back to Australia from London after an extended stay, check the El Nino-Southern Oscillation and if it looks like we're headed into a La Nina phase, stay in London. It'll be dryer!

It's rained so much since we got back to Sydney. The last couple of weeks have been insane. It looks like it's gonna be a very very wet Winter.

In other news, we saw a house today that we just might sell ourselves into debt slavery for.

Why are worm farms so expensive?

Worms farms are pretty simple pieces of equipment. You have a few layers of trays where you put your veggie scraps and worms, separated by a perforated mesh that the worms can move through. The top and bottom are sealed to keep the worms in and insects out, while collecting (very fertile) liquid at the very bottom. You fill the bottom tray with scraps, then move on to the next tray up. When the worms are done with the bottom tray, you empty it into your garden as wonderful compost and soil improver, move that tray to the top and continue.

Most worm farms are made out of molded plastic. The structures are very simple. The material is cheap. The Chinese manufacturing miracle should be able to churn these things almost for free.

Thing is, the cheapest I've been able to find is $65 from The Watershed, run by Marrickville and Sydney councils. At Bunnings the cheapest is about $80, yet you can buy a Mitre Saw, full of complex machinery and electronics, for $30. Someone, somewhere is making a lot of profit on these worm farms.

If anyone out there has any expertise in plastics moulding and mass manufacturing, there's a lot of money to be made undercutting these price gougers.

One option is to make your own, but it shouldn't be so hard!