mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

Thoughts on Xenoblade Chronicles: Future Connected

Warning: This post contains spoilers for both Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. If you haven’t played these games yet congrats - you’ve got two great games to play! Come back to this post once you’ve completed both.

Future Connected takes place one year after the end of Xenoblade Chronicles and follows Shulk and Melia as they explore a new area, the Bionis Shoulder, and aim to reclaim Alcamoth from the mysterious Fog King who comes out of a spacetime rift. Let’s start with what I liked about Future Connected: exploring the vast, new area was a lot of fun; collecting all the Nopon Prospectors was also a lot of fun; Shulk’s new outfits are very stylish; and the upgrade you eventually get to Shulk’s Replica Monado looks like what 3rd grade me concoct - more mufflers!

The big miss about Future Connected is it really doesn’t add much to the Xenoblade Chronicles universe. The spacetime rifts felt like a perfect way to connect Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 given both games take place in parallel universes that branch off from Klaus’ Conduit experiment; we literally see Klaus as The Architect in XBC2 half-consumed by a spacetime rift and hear Shulk felling Zanza through it! Playing Future Connected I expected some sort of tie-in between the two games and was disappointed to find that not only was there no connection, the story itself was pretty plain and uninspiring. What a miss!

All that said, Future Connected was an enjoyable romp to top off an extremely satisfying second playthrough of Xenoblade Chronicles.

Team-Building Activities and Easy Audio Capture on macOS

As work from home for many companies has been extended indefinitely the need for keeping your team engaged has become even more important. I have found scheduling a meeting with the team with no agenda and no discussion related to work has been a small thing that has worked well. There are a ton of fun ways to spend this time. Ones we’ve tried and enjoyed:

  • Icebreaker questions on plenty of websites - lots of opportunities to learn fun facts about your team
  • Drawing shenanigans on skribblio - supports up to 12 players
  • Codenames on horsepaste.com - hit or miss in my opinion because Codenames is hard
  • Quizbowl on protobowl.com - middle school is challenging enough
  • Deck-building games like Dominion - the base game is free, expansions require a nominally priced subscription
  • Party games like Jackbox - lots of options here, great for groups that are 3-8 people

What does any of this have to do with audio capture on macOS? Jackbox, the last item on the above list is played with one person running the game and then sharing their screen with everyone else playing. On macOS you can share video but there is no simple, built-in way to capture and share audio over video conference software like Google Meet. There are some guides available online for how to do this but the simplest, but not cheapest, option to get this working is Loopback by Rogue Amoeba.

Loopback lets you create new audio input devices that can capture audio from a variety of sources. In the above screenshot I’m capturing audio from an HyperX headset, the Macbook Pro’s internal microphone, Jackbox Party Pack 4, and Jackbox Party Pack 5. This all funnels into a new virtual audio input device called HyperX + Jackbox that I can set as my input device in the sound preferences for macOS.

And you’re good to go! If there are other apps you need to capture audio from it’s easy in Loopback to add them to this virtual audio device.

Managing Management - Interview Journey and Calibration

Instrumenting the journey of people you interview is critical to understanding and improving your interview processes. With instrumentation you set up concrete feedback loops that give you insight and opportunities to improve your interviewing. I’ve used two Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), Lever and Greenhouse, and neither provided the data in the format I wanted. Spreadsheets are SaaS apps waiting to be built so let’s walk through the spreadsheet solution I built to instrument the interviewing funnel.

In this post we’ll walk through the spreadsheet I built with my fantastic recruiting partner Daren to help solve this problem: Candidate Journey Tracker. This sheet has sample data for interview loops that are simple: one phone screen and if the candidate advances we have an onsite consisting of three technical interviews. We use the Lever system for evaluating candidates: 1 (strong no hire), 2 (no hire), 3 (hire), 4 (strong hire).

Candidates

Our first stop is the Candidates sheet. For any candidate that advances to the onsite stage we add their information to this sheet. This gives us a single place to review all candidates we’ve brought onsite in a single place and easily answer questions like:

  • What do onsite scores look like for offer-stage candidates today and in the past?
  • Are there any trends between candidate origin and onsite result?
  • How do candidates a particular person advances from phone screen do in onsites?

With candidate journey data collected in a single place we can now do interesting analysis around calibration. Calibration here means alignment between an each interviewer’s assessment of the candidate and the final decision for the candidate. An interview is more calibrated if they are inclined when the panel is inclined or when they are not inclined and the panel is not inclined. When there is a mismatch, the interviewer is less calibrated.

Calibration Analysis

For our sample data above you’ll notice that Day9 is perfectly calibrated: whenever Day9 is inclined to hire, the panel is inclined to hire and when he’s not inclined, the panel’s not inclined. Artosis is the exact opposite; some say he’s cursed. Tasteless is more a coin-flip: half the time he’s calibrated.

calibrationPercentage

There’s no need to do this analysis manually though! Using Google App Scripts (Tools -> Script Editor) you can write custom functions that calculate calibration percentage for every interviewer. The Calibration Analysis sheet shows off the custom calibrationPercentage function.

Candidates Revisited

With this function we can revisit our Candidates sheet and do some math. Astute observers will notice the sheet had the average score of onsite interviews and also a calibrated average of onsite interviews. The calibrated average adjusts each interviewer’s score based on their calibration percentange. Unless you’re perfectly calibrated this means your scores will be adjusted downwards. For our sample data, Day9’s scores aren’t adjusted (e.g. a 3 stays a 3) because he is perfectly calibrated; Tasteless’s scores are calibrated downwards by 50% (e.g. a 3 becomes a 1.5) because Tasteless has a 50% calibration; and Artosis’ scores are ignored (e.g. a 3 becomes a 0) because he is never calibrated. This calibrated average score provides another lens through which to view a candidate’s performance.

There are a few things worth highlighting before we close out this post:

  • This spreadsheet should not be used for deciding whether to move to offer-stage with a candidate. Having past data and concrete numbers in front of you can tempt you into simply making the offer decision a numbers game but you should avoid doing this.
  • Our sample data has three technical interviews but real onsites are rarely so uniform. Different interviewers will probe different technical and behavioral competencies. If a particular competency is easily handled by many candidates or catches many candidates off guard this will affect that particular interviewer’s calibration.
  • Calibration percentage calculation looks at all data points for an interviewer and applies that percentage to all their scores. An alternate system would only look at past data points when calculating this percentage, but this would hurt data sample size for earlier interviews.

In closing, this spreadsheet has been helpful tool to help assess the quailty of our interviewing and there’s so much more that can be built off of it (e.g. percent accuracy for phone screeners). Got an interesting tip that helps you better understand how calibrated your interviewing is? Let me know on Twitter!

Managing Management is a series on systems that are shareable and serve as actionable templates for addressing the deluge of things managers encounter everyday. Enjoyed this post and want to see more? Check out more at Managing Management.

One Week to Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is less than a week away from release on the Nintendo Switch and I am so excited! Times were dark for JRPGs in 2010 when Xenoblade Chronicles released on the Wii but the game revived faith in the genre for me and many others. Ten years later not only are we getting a visually spruced up version, we’re getting some remastered audio tracks, improved menus, a new epilogue - Futures Connected, and many quality-of-life improvements. This great article by Nintendo Enthusiast dives more into some of these changes.

To compound on this excitement, in a recent interview with Famitsu Xenoblade series director Tetsuya Takahashi confirmed there is a team at Monolith Soft working on a new game! High on my list of wants from Monolith Soft is a remastered version of Xenoblade Chronicles X with a new epilogue to properly close out that story, but I’m super excited to hear a “new game” is in the works. I hope it’s a new Xenoblade entry and has more Gundams!

If you’ve never played Xenoblade Chronicles before and have liked JRPGs at some point in your life, I cannot recommend this game enough! If you’re not sure about the genre and you’ve been meaning to check out a solid JRPG, this is a golden opportunity!

P.S. It’s Reyn time again!

Happy 7th Birthday to mark.gg

As I approach the ten year anniversary of my move from New Jersey to California to begin my career, today marks seven years of blogging on mark.gg!

My first post on Android Annotations, Ant, Dalvik Executable (dex) feels like forever ago. The Android ecosystem has evolved so much since then: Kotlin has become a first-class Android programming language, Apache Ant has been replaced by Gradle, Android Runtime (ART) has supplanted Dalvik, and most of the great stuff provided by Android Annotations is now built into the default Android development experience.

Here’s to hoping we can celebrate mark.gg’s 8th birthday in a post-COVID-19 world. 🙏