Update (December 21, 2013): Angry Mac Bastards appears to have gone offline, as a direct result of this incident. Their parting post offers a back-handed apology, and suggests the show will no longer air. The episode linked below is also now offline. The transcript below is now the only public record of this segment.
Months ago, I put up a page to help solicit either a new job, or a new partnership. I suppose the risk is that you open yourself to criticism. Little did I realize the extent of it.
On December 16, the Angry Mac Bastards podcast spent almost 30 minutes talking about my “hire me” page, located at vegh.ca/hireaaron. You can listen to the podcast from this page. It starts at minute 53 or so.
I have a lot of childhood experience with bullying. Like anyone with an asymmetric power relationship to the victim, the AMB crew remains quite unrepentant on Twitter about what they do, so I don’t see any benefit in arguing their points, their cruelty, or complain that they targeted me in particular.
Instead, I wanted there to be a record of their words. Podcasts are ephemeral at best; I doubt even the hosts remember what they’ve said. So I took the time to transcribe the segment. It’s long, and I don’t mind if you don’t read it.
The hosts, John Welch, Darby Lines and Kelly Guimont, appeared to have a good time performing their act. And their sponsors, Tech Superpowers, RemObjects Software, Freeway, Smile Software and JAMF Software, have to date either ignored the complaints about this segment, or (in the case of RemObjects), reaffirmed their support.
I didn’t ask folks on Twitter to write to these sponsors, but to those who did in the hopes of correcting a perceived injustice, I thank you for having your heart in the right place.
Here is the raw transcript, written as objectively as I could manage.
Darby: So, there we go. Going from potentially the best employee you’ll ever have, to potentially the worst employee you’ll ever have… John, take this one away.
Kelly: (Gleeful cackle)
John: So, as we all know, Richard Stallman, the toe-jam eater himself…
Darby: No! Dude, we’re talking about Aaron here.
John: Oh, Aaron, sorry. Oh, I missed it because of space. So, yeah, so.
Kelly: (Gleeful cackle)
John: At the other end of it, Aaron Vegh. Now, here’s the thing. I’m sure Aaron Vegh can code and do all this other shit. He’s trying to get hired, good on him, he’s on Twitter, he has a web site up that’s called Hire Aaron, and then he puts together a web page that… I don’t know if he’s confused clever with, if he doesn’t understand subtext, but I’m not seeing a guy who’s going to work well with people. I’m seeing a guy… it’s just, it’s just so bad all over the fucking place. It’s just a web site of a guy who puts forth the notion that if he doesn’t get his way he’s going to throw a goddamn hissy fit. There’s nothing here that says, and I hate to, you know, at every point it’s all just me me me me me.
Darby: Well I think you can sum up this Aaron Vegh’s, just the whole thing, just at the very beginning of his, ah, Hire Me web site. It says “Hi I’m Aaron, I’m the nerd you’re looking for. I’m a programmer ready to take on the next big challenge of my career. I’ve written a book, shipped two iOS apps, started my own web development firm, and worked for The Man. I’ve taken the chance on a startup, and I’ve started a magazine, though that one didn’t work out so well.” You know, this, this, this… there’s a picture of this fucker in a, if the gamma on your monitor is fucked you’ll think it’s a turtle neck it looks to be some kind of zip-up fleece performance job.
Darby: You know, bagging on people’s personal looks is kinda low, but he’s got hair that’s been Photoshop’d on, your standard three-quarter turn, arms crossed, head slightly nodded, stock photo, “I am wise beyond your knowledge” uh gaze at you. Like John you were saying it’s just everything about this derp sums up that he’s the last person that anyone wants to hire, and (laughing) we spent so long talking about some poor fucking homeless guy that we’re slagging this poor chump’s attempting to get a job, but he’s done it so badly, it’s just disturbing.
John: I think there’s some actually good bits here, aside from the humour part, for example, I’m speaking now as someone who’s had to hire people, and I see someone say “I adopt technologies in order to solve problems and I can pick up new ones very quickly”. That tells me that “my method of problem solving is to throw solutions until one happens to work”. I don’t want that. I want —
Kelly: The problem is the tool, not the actual problem.
John: If I just find the right tool, the problem will solve itself. Fuck no, I don’t want to deal with spaghetti testing. You know, “you want to work with me because I’m more than just another coder. I”m a guy who executes with wisdom and grit. I’m a self-taught developer with strong opinions on how technology should work. My ‘get it done’ philosophy means you’ll be able to count on me to deliver results.” As long as you’re getting your way.
Kelly: Yeah. That’s really what I get from this. I’m a snowflake.
Darby: Oh yeah, this is a pure example of “I’m a precious snowflake, everything must be my way”, fucking mindset, yeah.
John: “To employ the praise I received from the designer of the Government of Ontario website when I implemented his template in code, ‘That’s fucking tight.'” Well first of all, these days I wouldn’t be crowing about getting praise from a government official on your website
Kelly, Darby: (Laughter)
John: But secondly, the designer of the website when he implemented this dude’s template in code, that’s fucking tight. There’s this thing, Aaron, called confirmation bias — look it up — it’s —
Darby: This thing I developed in Photoshop, looks good on the web? He was a genius!
John: His sites aren’t bad, but the kind of pictures he’s got are kind of there. I’m not saying this guy’s awesome, I’m seeing things that this guy’s competent. That’s great, that’s wonderful, there are thousands of competent people out there. Why are you better than them? What have you done where you’re working with other people?
Darby: Well that’s exactly it, you know, I’ve hired people, and I think you’re hitting the exact notes that I am when I’m seeing this guy, you know, from the look of his resume, he linked to his resume you can pull it up, he’s got a solid background, I mean, it looks like he went down a career, and education path that didn’t work out in publishing, and he decided to move on to development, that’s cool, I mean my degree’s in anthropology, so what are you going to do? He’s got relatively solid work experience, he’s only actually had, four jobs, but they’re decently solid, I mean, if I was hiring this guy to be like a basic level coder, he’d be a good candidate. But because he puts himself out there as being, you know, the man, the guy who can get anything done, who can do anything and whose code is “fucking tight”, according to the government of Ontario, yet you see pictures of the web sites he’s implemented. Not the site, the layout of the site, and obviously fucking templates, you know, shit like that. You know, he wrote a book, he crows about writing a book, but when you go to Amazon you find out it’s a self published book. You know, that’s fine, that’s great, this isn’t slagging on people who self publish, but don’t crow that “I am published author”, you know, when you’re self published. It’s shitty, you know. And you see it so much in the tech sphere, not to this horrendous of a level, but so you wrote some blog posts that Gruber linked to, whoop-de-fucking-doo, it doesn’t make you an analyst. You self publish a book with iBooks Author, anyone can, play to your actual accomplishments, don’t go for this “look at me, I is fucking genius” when on the page all I can see is uh, you know, I’m not going to say mediocre, but tradesman-like at best. You know, when the bottom, the last words on the page are “This page is 100% valid, semantic HTML5, implemented using Responsive Design techniques. Looks best on a Retina display.” When the only fucking, you know, the least annoying part of that display is the picture of your fucking mug, shut the fuck up, man. You make yourself sound like a pompous twat. I don’t want to hire you. Now you’ve pissed me off.
Kelly: That’s my problem, is he goes right up to the edge of reasonability, and then jumps over. “What am I looking for?” Here are the things he’s looking for. That’s fine, and then you get down to, “It’s the twenty-first century. I want to work with the best people, no matter where they are. And I want to do it from the comfort of my treadmill desk.” Oh, fuck you, you fucking precious, pretentious, turtleneck-wearing motherfucker. (Because you know he’s wearing a turtleneck the rest of the time.) He was doing good until he got there. Where’s the other part? Oh, “You want to work with me because while I’m not a professional designer, you’ll win by having a developer who deeply cares about design.” Okay, I’m good with that. And then he comes down to “that’s fucking tight”, and “that’s what I like to hear”. For fuck’s sake, dude. If this page were half the length it actually is, if he’d actually put up a nice web page, of here’s who I am, and here’s why you should hire me, but no. He takes everything, and take it to the Oh, for fuck’s sake! level.
John: Well, it… so here’s the thing. His web page does him no favours. Being kind as humanly possible.
Kelly: Nnnnnot one.
John: Then you read his web site, his resume, and the content is actually showing a completely different person. He’s dealt with large scale stuff, you know contact sharing, web app, Ruby on Rails, and you’re like okay, that’s good! He’s managed, supervised three contract developers, that’s kind of tricky, that’s great! The resume is really good!
Darby: It’s solid, it’s, it’s… a mid-level position, yeah.
John: And here’s the thing. His web page, he talks about design, design design [etc]. I care about fonts, design. And I go look at his resume, and I see a standard Word template resume in Helvetica.
Darby: It’s not even Pages. At least use Pages, man.
Kelly: Mister I-Wrote-A-Book-For-the-Mac isn’t even using Pages?
Darby: It might be Pages, I don’t know. It’s pretty bog-standard though.
John: Yeah, that’s the thing, is that it’s a generic… there’s nothing about the resume that says “great design”. And it’s like “well dude!” You’re telling me two different things here. You care about great design, and then you’re not showing it in your resume. And well people are going to look at your web site, and your GitHub page, and that’s great, because they can see that you’ve done stuff, but at the same fucking time, your resume should matter.
Kelly: At least a little.
John: Actually, the worst is I’m looking at it in Acrobat, you know, he did build it in Pages.
Darby: (Laughing) So he picked the most boring template in Pages.
Kelly: Oh god.
Darby: At least pick the cool one with the green text and shit, that one’s nifty.
John: Yeah it’s just —
Kelly: Yeah that one’s at least not the one you see from everyone’s who opened Pages and goes “what’s the first one that says ‘resume'” and then fills the fucker out.
John: Yeah it’s just generic bulleted text in one font. There’s nothing that tells me this guy knows much about design. He did a good job of picking a legible font, he didn’t jam everything together, he can vaguely paginate things, but that’s it! This is not a guy with a Masters Degree in Publishing’s resume. This is not a guy who’s building web sites and doing good design for 15 years’ web site. This is… and I will say this, if he was doing like a sysadmin, this would be a pretty good resume, this is a good sysadmin design here because it’s real clean, real basic, gets right to the fucking point. But this is not a good designer web site, also please for the love of Christ don’t put MUGs on your resume.
John: You know, the thing is, if you’re going to tell me about associations I need to look at that associations and instantly see how you’re associating with a group of other like-minded individuals who are in the same thing and the first two: Cocoa, WebObjects, I do know enough to realize that WebObjects groups have moved on from WebObjects and are probably talking more about Rails and Python. Um… Cocoanuts… okay… a little twee but it’s a good thing to hang out with people who want to do iOS development. But what the fuck, Mac Users East. No! Mac User Groups are bad! Stay away! Bad! Bad!
Darby: Never admit to being in a MUG.
John: And it’s great that he won the logo design contest for Durham Region Transit, you know they’re not just going to pick shmucks, they’re not going to pick complete shit, that’s good, it may not be the most exciting thing, but it shows he does design in a way that a large, corporate type regional transit system is going to enjoy. Wonderful. Compaq Customer Advocate Award? What the fuck is that? At every point, he’s almost good, but then you’re like… dude, it’s not like you have to have page curls, don’t do anything like that, or all this weird shit, but you’re billing yourself as someone with some design chops. Show me your design chops in your resume. Show me… god, don’t be so fucking twee on the web site. No, it really doesn’t work that well, don’t tell me you want to work for me from the comfort of your treadmill because you’re kind of doing that now.
Darby: Yeah. It reads as someone who just probably has some decent fundamental skills, but spent far too much time listening to the usual suspects. You don’t get real jobs in this world by pretending to be fucking John Gruber. I’m sorry that’s not how it works.
John: No, and you don’t get a real job by, by… and here’s the thing, and it shows a bit of a lack of self awareness. “As my career has developed, I’ve found myself stymied by the fact that I’ve worked mostly alone as a developer, and that has limited the scope of what I’ve been able to create. I have a folder on my computer called ‘Crazy Ideas’, and it’s crammed full. In other words, I can crack open a can of ‘what if?’ pretty much on demand.” Everyone can open a can of “what if”, it’s usually used as a delaying tactic, or a way to torpedo ideas that someone doesn’t like. Again, people who read corporate speak are going to read that and it’s not going to be good. You gotta put yourself in other peoples’ heads. I want to make sure I get this right. It’s showing that in a team situation, where he’s just one of the team, and not the special person on the team, maybe he’s not the best guy. Maybe he’s not the best person. I mean honestly, the contact management thing is actually pretty fucking hard to do, I would have talked up the shit about that. You know, the stuff you’ve done that’s large scale, because people do small scale web apps, people do responsive web design, there’s templates for all that shit. The fact you can reinvent the wheel doesn’t impress me. The fact you’ve designed something that’s kind of hard to do, that scales up to a large number of users and you worked as part of a team, that tells me a lot more about the kind of person that you should be talking about, not me me me, but we we we, because these days you’re going to work with other people, if you weren’t, you’d be an indie dev, and you wouldn’t need this fucking site.
Darby: And actually, I have a little, one amendment. I stated that his book was self-published. I was wrong about that, because Amazon is a pain in the ass to parse. It’s actually published by Wiley, so it was actually published by a semi-legitimate publisher.
John: That’s good, but why not point that out? “Published by Wiley Publishing”? Because the assumption is you self published this.
Darby: Yeah and the weird thing is, to kind of digress from yapping about Aaron here, instead of showing a publisher like most books it shows “Aaron Vegh” here, that’s just stupid. And now that I’m digging into the limited amount that Amazon lets you see of a book, um, just like with everything else here, it’s solid, workmanlike… it’s a beginner’s guide to web development. As in, hey, I’ve got… actually it says it itself, “This book for anyone who wants to learn web development”. It’s essentially a beginner’s… a very very beginner’s guide to web development and that’s fine, that’s great, those things need to exist…
Kelly: There’s a place for that, yeah.
Darby: But don’t uh… don’t uh… you know, point that out what your strength is, and don’t pull yourself off as the fucking uh… the solution to everyone’s problems. Especially when the objective things we can look at these screenshots of your web sites, we can look at your resume, we can look at your book and see you’re a solid, uh, probably decent coder, tech person, can probably hanle more than one thing, bounce between different technologies at once, and that’s probably a good thing sometimes, but fucking play to that strength, don’t try to come off as if you’re the saviour to some company, because looking at your actual work output, you ain’t.
John: Yeah, it’s really weird, because it’s like, the thing is, here’s your web site, your resume where you’re crammed for space and you have to make all of these decisions based on really tight space requirements. You don’t have a lot of room to talk about stuff. But on your website, it’s like wait, this is your great chance to talk about that contact site, which I keep coming back to because it’s a great example of what I would want to show about here’s how I went about this and here’s the problem, and here’s a couple things that we ran into and here’s my methodology for working with people to help solve this problem. You know, tell me all this kind of stuff because this is where you turn a guy with a website into a guy who’s well worth hiring and show me this kind of shit and… but this website is just “oh, uh, okay uh I’m a hipster who likes designs and fonts”. Great. Kick a tree and 30 of you fall out. In Canada maybe ten. Because you got so many trees. Well no, maybe it would be 30 because you don’t have many trees so… well yeah they do they got… never mind. “I’ll cut to the chase: I want to participate in building things that are meaningful, and allow me to make a good living…. Working for a small, progressive company that believes strongly in remote work. Partnering with another designer or developer; we can pool our resources and become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Okay… Destroyer. Okay, Devastator, but you’re going to need three more constructicons.
John: This entire thing is about what you can do, but really it’s about what companies can do for you. Especially in a recession, not the best tactic to take. I would seriously think about rewriting this to what you can do for them, how you can integrate in with them, and for the love of Christ, how about the shit you’ve actually done more.
Kelly: Right. Maybe he can’t, because I did actually go to his Github page, and take a look and the last time he did anything interesting there was August.
John: Well, I don’t know if that’s good or bad, at least he’s done something vaguely recently…
Kelly: That’s once in August, and then once in June, so… in the last year, he’s made 11 contributions.
Darby: Yeah, maybe he’s not down with the ‘Hub. He’s authored an iOS app. You go to his actual web site there’s more useful info there that’s of use, than on his hire me hire me page. This isn’t some chump who’s out of his fucking league…
Darby: He has absolutely no concept of how to market himself, and has listened to all the wrong fucking people. He’s listened to the Seth Grodins of the world, and the result is this fucking abomination of a Hire Me page for someone who is actually very hireable…
Kelly: That’s the most frustrating thing about this whole thing. He’s probably not too bad!
Darby: Unless his personality is really horrible.
John: But you have to go deep to figure out this guy’s hireable and not just a pompous jerk and you’re not going to do it. And I speak as someone who has caused problems because you have to dig too deep to realize that I’m not a foaming at the mouth asshole. So I understand the problem, really well. So take it from me, if you want to get hired you have to make it so people don’t have to fucking dig, because when they dig the dude’s eminently fucking hireable, he seems from what he’s doing it seems he’d be a great addition to anybody. Just don’t read the web page, just go to the bottom and look at the links and look at the shit that’s actually valuable. Christ. Do we have to tell people how to do everything?
Darby: Add it to the list Angry Mac Bastards’ Consulting Services. We’ll give you personal counselling on how to not come off as an asshat in your resume.
Kelly: We absolutely will. I would love nothing more. (Laughs)
Darby: As long as you pay us for it.
Kelly: You totally got to pay us for it, but I would really like to do that so there is less rampant asshattery in the world. Because this is my big hangup about my resume when I have to work on it, I never particularly enjoy telling the world how awesome I am, so my resume always looks like, “here’s my stuff I did as part of a team, here’s the stuff I did as a supervisor of a team, here’s the stuff I did to help the team I was on do something better”. So that’s always the stuff I’m trying to highlight, so I would rather read a resume like mine, not a resume like this. I mean if the resume looks like the web page. The resume itself isn’t too bad. The web page, yeah, I’d like to do my part to stamp out that sort of asshattery. What this dude needs to do is get off his treadmill desk, stop listening to Five-By-Fucking-Five, and go do something in the world, and go “here’s an app”, and “here’s a revolutionary upgrade to an app that I have in the App Store”, and “here’s a really cool thing that I did”, because it’s going to be really obvious from his site what he puts on here… “I’ve been blogging intermittently for over five years”. Okay what that tells me is that you can’t commit to writing about whatever the fuck it is you want to write about because it’s your blog.
John: Everyone has been blogging intermittently for the last five years. That’s only since 2008. If you tell me you’ve been blogging, truly intermittently — sometimes a lot, sometimes a little — since 2000? 2002? For ten years? That’s a little something different.
Kelly: Everybody’s intermittent. Don’t tell me it’s intermittent.
Darby: Everybody blogs, that’s the bottom line. The thing of it is, we’re kind of beating this poor fucker to death, but the bottom line is, Kelly you were kind of getting at, is self promotion is hard, I am horrible at self promotion.
John: Oh, yeah.
Darby: The problem is there is a shit ton of advice from idiots, and in fact, sociopathic assholes as far as I’m concerned, like Seth Grodin, who want to tell the world how to market your personal brand blah blah, fucking blah, and for the vast majority of people out there it leads to abominations like this, that just do nobody any sort of service.
Darby: The takeaway from this isn’t that this Aaron kid is a bad hire, or even wrote a bad web site, it’s that he got some really bad advice along the way on how to market himself. And I hope he doesn’t hear this because I wouldn’t want to hear someone slagging on me for this long, but if you do Aaron, if you do come acrosss this recording, you got good skills, learn how to market them more effectively, because you’re not doing well now.
John: Yeah, just the quick TL;DR, it can’t be all about me me me, and it can’t come across as all what you’ll do for me. It should be we we we, all the way home, about what you can do for them, all the way, and push that fucking contact database, that’s the kind of thing people need, scale problems are the problems that need to be solved…
Darby: Fuck yeah.
John: You’ve got real experience there. And anyone listening, take a look at what the kid does, don’t let the web site throw you off, look at what the kid, actually kid, he’s almost as old as me, he’s not a kid, judging college graduation ages right. You know, look at this dude, see if you got something, because it looks like he could be an asset. He’s a little bad at the self marketing thing but don’t take that too seriously.
Kelly: Right. Don’t hire him to be a marketer. Hire him for the stuff he actually does.
Darby: And none of that stand-up desk bullshit.
John: Yeah, make him sit like a grown-up.
Kelly: (Hee hee)