Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Census Summary

In the Census, the problem isn't the people who haven't filled out the Census; they're almost universally supportive. The problem is management. I'm not talking about the people directly above me, which I have direct contact with, they're fine and very supportive as well.

I'm talking about the distant management, which only has communication through paperwork and unreasonable demands through anonymous memos. In a way, I don't blame them. They have a job to do, but they don't know how to do it. Specifically, they have to ensure that all the Census forms are collected by a certain date, but they can't just go and fill them out directly, that's our job. All they can do is tell us to do our job more. Since they don't understand the reality on the ground, their demands are often counter-productive or meaningless. It's not really their fault. The hardest thing to do when there's a problem is nothing.

I don't know what I'm getting at here. I guess the most interesting part is that most Respondents are very supportive and helpful.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Census Report: Management

Working for the Census is odd; the immediate supervisor above me is very supportive, but there's someone higher up in the system who's completely wrong and unreasonable.

When we got in to this, the demands were reasonable: work 20 hours a week minimum, and get to residences at a variety of times to maximize the likeliness of reaching a occupant of the house. This allows for a great degree of flexibility for employees, who may be working a second job, or have non-Census interests in their life.

More recently, the system has changed. A regional director has issued a directive that all employees must work every evening (including weekends) and must work in the morning every weekend as well. That's not a suggestion, it was attached to an attitude of trying to fire people, and it's implied that if you fail to keep up, you're out.

There are technical reasons that this is completely unreasonable, and actually makes it so that less work is done every day and every week. More importantly, this is a betrayal of the soldiers on the ground by the higher-ups. When someone gets a new job, there's a written and unwritten agreement between the employer and employee. It essentially says, "we've agreed that you'll do this work, and you'll get payed this much, and if something else needs to be done, we'll talk about it." Demanding that every employee change their schedule, regardless of performance, especially with the threat of being fired for anything but perfect compliance, is an offensive violation of that contract.

Since the time of the announcement, I've been informed that the demand to work every evening was created by someone without the authority to make that decision, and was just the idiotic result of a member of middle management jockeying for recognition. The fact that there's been no official retraction of that announcement to date means the Census Bureau is a lot less professional than I would have hoped.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Census Working Challenges Stereotypes

It's funny how people differ from assumptions might lead you.

When working the Census, I interviewed someone that I would have guessed was a drug dealer, but they were the most supportive person I've run in to to date. They were telling me to keep it up, and not to let the job get me down, that sort of thing. I've had the most resistance (sullen, wordless resistance, mostly) from people I would have guessed would have been cooperative and helpful.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Carsonist, Super Census Worker

I am just about the ideal census worker. It's supposed to take roughly an hour of labour per person interviewed*, and I've done ~35 residences in ~25 hours. This is a pretty big time savings**.

There's a (justified) concern at the Census bureau about keeping information private. PII, (Personally Identifiable Information, or something like that) is of enormous concern, and there's a 250.000$ fine and 5 years in jail for a Census worker that releases confidential information. I'm perfect at this because I don't care. Once I'm done writing down the information from one question, my brain is too busy asking the next question to remember anything about the previous one. If someone approached me after an interview and wanted to know what the respondents were like, I'd have to check the paper.

In fact, the only person I particularly remember at the moment was someone I was trying to interview about a neighboring domicile who gave me sass. I don't have any PII about that person to release, even if I wanted to.

My forgetfulness about the people I interview is helped by modern residential design, which is to make all houses look exactly the same. If someone was to show me a photo of a house I'd been to, I'd be completely unable to say whether I had been there. I'd jokingly ask if this place had a grill, because they all have a grill. I don't know what's up with that.

*This includes travel time, multiple attempts at contacts, etc. in addition to the interview itself, which averages to about ten minutes or so.
** I'm not payed on commission, so this is actually a bad work strategy for me. People have pointed out that there's no incentive to work fast, but my drive to get work done is purely instinctive.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Jackie Brown

I just saw Jackie Brown. Quentin Tarantino loves messing with the audience.