The Craigslist Experiment

Eric Auld was having a hard time finding a job, so he decided to work backwards and figure out who he was competing against. So he created a job ad on Craigslist:

Administrative Assistant needed for busy Midtown office. Hours are Monday through Friday, nine to five. Job duties include: filing, copying, answering phones, sending e-mails, greeting clients, scheduling appointments. Previous experience in an office setting preferred, but will train the right candidate. This is a full-time position with health benefits. Please e-mail résumé if interested. Compensation: $12-$13 per hour.

The first response came within four minutes. In 24 hours, he received a staggering 653 responses. He then broke down the applicants’ experience into categories and performed an analysis of who applied. His biggest takeaways were:

1.) Employers won’t notice me by my résumé alone. This one I kind of knew already, but I need to actually follow through with my lesson. Am I really going to stand out in a tidal wave of 626 applications? Probably not. What I should do is figure out methods to grab the employer’s attention, whether it’s finding out if anyone I know works with the organization, seeking out a personal recommendation, or calling to double-check that the employer received my résumé (even though we all know how daunting actual phone calls can be). I need to find additional ways to let the employer know that I am the right man for the job. Anything to make the employer say, “Ah, yes, Mr. Auld,” and not, “Oh, right, Applicant #24601.”

2.) When job searching on Craigslist, apply to positions immediately. 49 percent of responses to this non-existent position were submitted in the first three hours alone — that’s 317 emails. I know that when I apply for jobs, I like to imagine my résumé near the top of the pile; this helps me sleep at night (in addition to scotch). Because of this experiment, I’ve decided to not bother submitting to Craigslist positions that are more than one day old. As for other sites, I’ll probably discard any postings that have been up for more than one week.

An interesting (if not morally honest) experiment. It’s important to point out that Eric has a Master’s degree, and he didn’t consider whether that was an advantage for him when applying for jobs. As echoed in the comments (and also, from my personal experience as well), Master’s degrees often hurt an application more than help, especially in entry level positions. The consensus is that the applicant might be so bored or resentful of the job, that he/she will be looking for something better/different immediately upon starting the new job.

The Aleppo Codex Mystery

How and why did 200 pages of the Aleppo Codex (Hebrew: כֶּתֶר אֲרָם צוֹבָא‎), the oldest, most complete, most accurate text of the Hebrew Bible, go missing? Ronen Bergman investigates in a thrilling piece for New York Times Magazine:

For a thousand years after the Dead Sea Scrolls were written, the Jewish holy scriptures — the five parts of the Torah and 19 other holy books — were copied and passed down in the various Jewish communities from generation to generation. Some of these texts, according to Jewish faith, were handed down directly by God and included signs, messages and codes that pertained directly to the essence of existence. The multiplicity of manuscripts and the worry that any change or inaccurate transcription would lead to the loss of vital esoteric knowledge created the need for a single, authoritative text. And beyond its mystical significance, a unified text was also necessary to maintain Jewish unity after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Roman Empire. As Adolfo Roitman, the head of the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls and parts of the codex are displayed, said: “One can regard the thousand years between the scrolls and the codex, the millennium during which the standardization of the text was carried out, as a metaphor for the effort of the Jewish people to create national unity. One text, one people, even if it is scattered to the four ends of the earth.”

According to tradition, early in the sixth century, a group of sages led by the Ben-Asher family in Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, undertook the task of creating a formal and final text. The use of codex technology — a method that made it possible to record information on both sides of a page, in book form, as a cheaper alternative to scrolls — had already evolved in Rome. Around A.D. 930, the sages in Tiberias assembled all 24 holy books and completed the writing of the codex, the first definitive Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible. From Tiberias, the codex was taken to Jerusalem. But Crusaders laid waste to the city in 1099, slaughtering its inhabitants and taking the codex. The prosperous Jewish community of Fustat, near Cairo, paid a huge ransom for it. Later, in the 12th century, it served Maimonides, who referred to it as the most accurate holy text, as a reference for his major work, the Mishneh Torah. In the 14th century, the great-great-great-grandson of Maimonides migrated to Aleppo, bringing the codex with him. There it was kept, for the next 600 years, in a safe within a small crypt hewed in the rock beneath Aleppo’s great synagogue.

The story of what happened next — how the codex came to Israel and where the missing pages might have gone — is a murky and often contradictory one, told by many self-serving or unreliable narrators. In his book, “The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible,” published in May by Algonquin Books, the Canadian-Israeli journalist Matti Friedman presents a compelling and thoroughly researched account of the story, some of which served as the catalyst for additional reporting here.

This piece is a contender for one of the best longreads of 2012. Continue reading here.

A Tribute to Dmitri Nabokov

Lila Azam Zanganeh, author of The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness, remembers Dmitri Nabokov, the only child of the novelist Vladimir Nabokov. Dmitri was a womanizer, whose life resembled a James Bond film. But he was also his father’s best translator. It’s a beautiful tribute:

Dmitri was also a womanizer, once known in the Italian press as “Lolito,” seducer extraordinaire. His life — mountaineering in Wyoming and British Columbia, singing in Medellín and Milan, racing cars and boats along the Mediterranean, carousing with handsome girls — was something out of a James Bond film. When I asked him why he had never married, he told me life had slipped away too quickly. Sensing he was being disingenuous, I later ventured to ask again. This time, quietly, almost in a whisper, he said his parents had been “twin souls,” and he knew it would “always remain impossible to match what they had had.”

What became apparent in Dmitri in later years was the remnant of that lost world. It came with a sense of compassion and dignity, of patience and nobility, despite his foibles, his occasional childlike demands, his folie des grandeurs. As he neared the age of his father’s death, it remained just as impossible for Dmitri to accept that “Father” was no more. Often, when he evoked his parents, Dmitri’s ice-blue eyes would begin to drift out of focus. I caught him at his desk one afternoon watching a YouTube montage called “Nabokov and the Moment of Truth,” which juxtaposes film clips and stills of his parents and himself. He was in his wheelchair, leaning deeply into the computer screen, silently crying.

Great Wines for $20

Eric Asimov, writing for The New York Times, argues that a wine bottle that comes in at $20 hits the “sweet spot”:

I want wine that excites me, that feels so good to drink that one sip urges on the next and the next after that. I want a wine that tells a story of a place and a people and a culture, that is not the predictable equivalent of a franchise restaurant but more like a little mom-and-pop’s, where you’re not always sure what you’ll find but you know it can have the capacity to inspire.

You might be able to find a bottle like that for $10. But it’s rarer than you think. At $15 to $25, though, the odds swing decidedly in your favor. With a little experience, you can find dozens of joyous bottles, plucked carefully from the ranks of the routine.

To that end, he lists twenty bottles of wine that cost $20 (in Manhattan, so you may be able to find it cheaper in your area):

François Pinon Vouvray Brut NV

A richer sparkling wine that is nonetheless dry, snappy, pure and precise with an undertone of honey, the gorgeous signature of the chenin blanc grape. François Pinon, one of my favorite Vouvray producers, has a knack for coaxing the perfect combination of voluptuous body and laserlike focus from chenin blanc. 

Domaine de l’Octavin Arbois The Péteux NV

This frothy sparkling chardonnay from the Jura is exuberant and floral yet dry, steely and absolutely delicious, perfect for a lunch outdoors. Octavin is a small, rather new estate started by a young couple, Alice Bouvot and Charles Dagand. They are devoted to natural winemaking, and the Péteux is a pétillant naturel. Rather than bottling finished wine with yeast and sugar in the manner of Champagne, which induces a second fermentation to produce bubbles, a pétillant naturel is bottled before the first fermentation is complete, producing a softer fizz. 

La Clarine Farm Sierra Foothills Rosé 2011

This is not one of those onion-skin-colored rosés from Provence, which epitomize the Mediterranean style. It’s darker, a pale ruby blend of syrah and mourvèdre grown in the Sierra Foothills, most often the source of bold, powerful zinfandels. This wine is a lesson in balance and elegance, dry and mineral, light enough for an aperitif yet substantial enough to drink throughout a meal.

Dönnhoff Nahe Estate Riesling 2011

Dönnhoff is one of the great riesling producers. The estate riesling is a blend of grapes from several different sites and offers more than initially meets the eye. Poured directly from a chilled bottle, it seems gently pleasant and lightly sweet at first. But as the wine warms up, its elegant nature becomes apparent, and a richness and rocky minerality emerge. 

See the entire list here.

Any oenophiles among the readers here? What do you think of that $20 wine list?

Oliver Reichenstein: “Good Design is Invisible”

Oliver Reichenstein is the founder and director of Information Architects (iA), the Tokyo, Zurich, and Berlin-based design agency. The company has found recent success in iOS and Mac app development. Writer for iPad is a minimalist text editor (I have it installed on my iPad, and highly recommend it), and per The Verge, “its focus-enhancing combination of sparse visuals and refined typography” has since made the leap to OS X and the iPhone.  Reichenstein recently took the time to answer some of questions on design and development with The Verge:

On invisibility of good design:

To give you an idea, with the new Retina displays we had to optimize the typeface so it looks like it used to look on the iPad 2. To do this we had to grade the typeface, producing subtly different versions for each class of display so they have the same visual weight.

To the user the type looks exactly the same on the retina display as on the iPad 2. This required a lot of tweaking from our side (to find the right definition), and the deep professional knowledge of Bold Monday. Users don’t notice this, but they don’t need to. Good user interface design takes care of irritations before they appear.

Good design is invisible. Good screen design happens in the subatomic level of microtypography (the exact definition of a typeface), the invisible grid of macrotypography (how the typeface is used), and the invisible world of interaction design and information architecture. Minimum input, maximum output, with minimal conscious thought is what screen designers focus on. And just as type designers and engineers we do not try to find the perfect solution but the best compromise.

On the origin of iA Writer:

There were so many instances leading to it. I designed my first text editor in the early eighties. I even created a pixel font on a 5 x 5 pixel grid for the text editor. I did all that so I could see more text on the 256 x 192 resolution of my Dragon 32. Some of the ideas came from earning my philosophy student living as an informatics teacher in the nineties teaching MS Word and informatics, desperately trying to get pupils to stop fumbling and to start writing.

The biggest motivation to build iA Writer came from the mad idea to create our own hardware. A digital writing machine (the German word for typewriter). Apparently it is not that hard to produce hardware anymore if you have the right contacts in China. It is still madness for a small studio though. But months after our first sketches Apple presented the iPad, and then producing our own hardware was not necessary anymore.

The Mac version happened because the iOS version was such a big success. We tried to duplicate the same user experience in a completely different environment, which took a fair amount of time to do — and only a couple of weeks to copy.

The interview is also worth reading to get an idea of how Japanese and Western design differ in concept and execution.  As Oliver notes, Japanese web or app design is not comparable to Japanese art, graphic design, or architecture.

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Note: this blog post on the iA blog about how to correct Twitter errors is excellent. Highly recommend it.

Stop Waiting

From one of my favourite photographers (and writers), David duChemin writes a superb post titled “Stop Waiting”:

My own soul is so sick of this culture of pragmatism that has people locked into their fears and their anxieties as though staying safe will guarantee them immortality. Live forever, but live in fear without ever reaching higher than the cookie jar; that doesn’t sound like a life to me, even if it were possible. There will always be reasons we think we can’t do what we long to do. Few of them, if any, are good. Amputees climb Everest. People with children travel the world. And talentless hacks make a decent living selling kitsch they call art. If they can do it, so can you. So can I. Not easily. Not cheaply. Not quickly. It might take a lifetime and cost us more than we imagined. But we can do it. It’ll be a little easier if we stop being so damn patient, if we stop waiting, get up and try, risk, fail, and repeat.

A must-read in entirety.

David’s book, Within the Frame, is the best $25 investment you can make if you’re into photography. It’s one of the best books I’ve read on the subject of photography. As David says: “Gear is good; vision is better.”

The Visibility and Eloquence of @KimKierkegaard

The best new account that has popped up on Twitter in the last month is @KimKierkegaard. It’s the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard mashed with the tweets and observations of, who else, Kim Kardashian. These are my favorite tweets from the hilarious mash-up account:

On June 28:

What do you like better steak or cake? Existence is a prodigious contradiction which it is impossible to ponder without becoming passionate.

On July 2:

Man turns outward, away from the source of his happiness, hungry for distraction. Cant wait 4 tonite’s Keeping Up w/ the Kardashians on E !!

On July 16:

To strive to be what one already is, is the most difficult of all tasks. But everyone always thinks I’ve had my nose done.

On July 22:

My soul always turns back to the Old Testament & Shakespeare. They hate, love, murder their enemies. What could be more summery than that?

Find all the tweets under the full name, @KimKierkegaardashian.