michaelfeathers 373 days ago [-]
I'm stunned that no one is mentioning that this story came from Gerald Weinberg ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Weinberg ) - who passed away a few days ago. He was the OS dev manager for Project Mercury. He wrote 40 books on topics in software development, quality, organizational change and team psychology. He was very influential.

It's even more stunning that the author of the post didn't mention him either.

flobosg 373 days ago [-]
To be fair the author mentions "The Secrets of Consulting" as the source.
veezusk 373 days ago [-]
First I'm hearing that he died. What a bummer. I got to meet him once, briefly. Such a sincere guy.
michaelfeathers 372 days ago [-]
Yes, he was wonderful.
donkeyd 373 days ago [-]
Commenters here seem to read too much into the actual orange juice story and don't seem to get the actual point. I've worked in consultancy for a couple of years now and I've worked with sales people that say: "sure, we can do this", without having a clue and even asking an engineer. These projects, more often than not, run out of time and budget.

If I were the one on the hiring side, I'd be happy to be told that there might be a challenge in feature X and that they'd need to get more information to get a definitive answer. To me, that's what the article is about, not instantly wanting to give a definitive answer, but acknowledging that there may be some difficulties along the way.

dsr_ 373 days ago [-]
There's a job called "pre-sales engineer". I used to do it.

I went out with salespeople or joined their conference calls, and assessed:

- what the customer actually needed

- whether we could do that for them

- and if so, which products or services would work

Sometimes a pre-sales engineer provided technical credibility by talking to the customer's engineers and figuring out what they are doing. Other times, I provided technical credibility by saying that we didn't have a good solution for this project. Getting to No early prevents everyone wasting their time.

mfoy_ 373 days ago [-]
I've seen projects where there was a perverse inversion of this principle... after winning a relatively nebulous contract, our own PM would say "We can do that." without consulting the developers... surprise surprise, ended up late and over-budget.

I guess all this is really getting at is the need for critical thinking at all levels.

TuringNYC 373 days ago [-]
I've seen this years ago when incentive schemes were such that this made sense. Modern organizations I've seen pay sales and pre-sales engineers with some accelerated actual profit from the delivered product. This aligns incentives across the team. In fact, it over-aligns sometimes, because sales goes for low-balls they know the engineering team can deliver.
user5994461 371 days ago [-]
Low ball would be undercharging by at least half of the competitor. I'm pretty sure that's not what you meant.

A shorter and smaller project is good from a sales perspective. You build trust with the client, you will continue the work with repeated contracts and increase price. It also avoids the lawsuits with massive projects having failed to deliver a thing in years.

collyw 372 days ago [-]
Even with an engineer there, its difficult to foresee all possible problems that might arise. Though I guess it will be a lot more realistic than with just sales people.

(Saying that I just bought an new build apartment and speaking with the architects, we are far from the only industry to be late - we were comparing how similar projects end up in that respect).

grosjona 372 days ago [-]
I guess that this test is useful for managers who don't understand the details of the work that is required to accomplish the task. If you actually know what it takes to get the job done then you don't need an orange juice test; you can do proper due diligence by asking difficult domain-specific questions.

This article highlights the problem that managers today don't have sufficient domain knowledge to do their jobs properly so they're forced to rely on dumbed-down heuristics in order to make decisions.

The problem with such superficial approach is that there will always be people who know how to game it. There are a lot of people whose only talent is showing you exactly what you want to see.

Also, on the other end of the spectrum, such heuristics tend to unjustly filter out extreme performers/outliers. These kinds of dumbed-down heuristics are a big reason why our current economic system is so unfair and inefficient.

If you want to get to the meat, you have to crack through the shell first.

horsawlarway 372 days ago [-]
I don't really think you understood this idea.

Within the context of conference hosting, serving large glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice to that number of people WAS a difficult domain specific question.

He's less interested in the specifics of the answer to the question than he is in the thought process of the person answering it.

Did they immediately say yes without considering it? If so they're conning you. They haven't thought out the problem and acknowledged the difficulty, so they'll say yes to anything, even though they can't deliver.

Did they immediately say no, it's impossible? If so they're probably sub-par. They can't see a way to accomplish a difficult but achievable task.

The WHOLE point of the question is judging whether the other party actually understands the domain well enough to recognize when a task is difficult, and then follow up by acknowledging that and asking better questions (like: What's your budget for that? Because it will be hard).

The rest of your comment is spinning off into uselessness.

BeetleB 373 days ago [-]
>I've worked in consultancy for a couple of years now and I've worked with sales people that say: "sure, we can do this", without having a clue and even asking an engineer. These projects, more often than not, run out of time and budget.

A lot of people here say this, and no doubt it is indeed a real problem. Yet none of the books I've read on negotiation ever suggested something as inane as the orange juice test. They all have sections or a chapter on "OK, now that you've got the deal, how are you going to ensure the counterpart follows through?"

The solution will depend on the situation. Some of it is your responsibility for monitoring. Some of it (probably a lot, actually) is putting penalties in the contract. Some of it is being proactive and exploring what constraints the other person may be under (Is he under-resourced? Are there other decision makers than him who can screw it up? Can he outline a plan so you can see potential flaws?).

But nowhere do they suggest playing opaque games.

donkeyd 372 days ago [-]
> But nowhere do they suggest playing opaque games

My point was that it doesn't have to be an opaque game, the story just makes it seem that way. That's why I mentioned people reading too much into the story and not getting the point.

> They all have sections or a chapter on "OK, now that you've got the deal, how are you going to ensure the counterpart follows through?"

Sure, that's a valid way to approach this type of thing. It just means that in stead of spending most time on the actual project, you might be spending your time on managing the your supplier. If you can get around this by picking a supplier that makes a realistic bid, including a mention of possible issues, that might save a lot of headaches.

This is a choice in management strategy and I've experienced both types. I've also experienced that customers that do something like 'the orange juice test' are often better to work with and end up happier with the end result.

There's actually a huge issue in the Netherlands currently, where major consultancy firms make bids on projects the can't deliver. Multiple 8-9 figure government projects have ended that way and are now in litigation stages. This problem is both caused by the customer not knowing what they want and the supplier abusing that to get more hours in. Gotta make that sales target somehow!

hedora 372 days ago [-]
>> "OK, now that you've got the deal, how are you going to ensure the counterpart follows through?"

As they say, you can’t squeeze blood [orange juice] from a stone.

If the counterpart is too incompetent to follow through no amount of negotiation will help.

In particular, having access to technical capabilities in your organization is not the same thing as being a competent project manager. You should interview the person that will be managing your project, and that interview will invariably involve opaque games (or small pilot projects, which are almost the same thing).

badbug 372 days ago [-]
You missed the point.

The test is about finding people who understand the nature of the work. It to sort out the bullshitters who will agree to anything and then deliver a terrible solution over 3 months late and over budget.

You can likely find examples in your everyday life. Pay attention next time you hear people talking about doing work. Who is the defeatist (it can't be done in 3 months), who is deluded (I can do that in a weekend), and who understands the right answer is somewhere in between (maybe we could do it if x)

horsawlarway 372 days ago [-]
No joke. The responses to you are hilarious as well.
rge4seesr 373 days ago [-]
Sorry, I would have told the client no. Sure, it's technically possible to have the freshly squeezed orange juice ready at 7am. But it's not just a matter of cost. It's also more likely something will go wrong. And your business may not be able to afford having something go wrong.

Plus, a client asking for something like this - that's a huge red flag that the person asking is going to be very demanding, very clueless, or both. The kind of client that won't be happy with anything you do, and won't be easy to work with.

Our business culture is always teaching us to say yes. But there are some real assholes out there. For your own wellbeing, say no more often. Stand up for yourself. This guy can squeeze his own oranges.

Edit: I should add - it's even more of a red flag when your client does things to "test" you. Sounds like the kind of person who doesn't respect your professional ability, and won't trust you to do your job.

falcor84 373 days ago [-]
I understand where you're coming from, but I don't agree about this particular request. It's definitely unusual, but I don't think it's "particularly" unusual. From what I know, venue organizers are quite used to dealing with weird idyosyncratic requests and see them as part of their role. This sort of stuff is particularly common in weddings and being able to indulge unique requests is a sort of badge of honor for organizers.

A particularly great example from fiction by the way is Heinlein's "We also walk dogs", which I highly recommend.

Going back to the original post, I might decide against taking the job after learning it was just a test, but that's a separate discussion.

logfromblammo 372 days ago [-]
That's related to the "Brown M&M Test", as named by the detail in the Van Halen tour rider, and used by some people as an immediately visible indicator that the venue actually read the technical specs. If you see a "brown M&M", you know you need to double-check every last detail of the contractor's work. If you don't, you can probably get away with random spot-checks.

In the end, someone has to actually get paid to squeeze the oranges or pick all the brown M&Ms out of the bag, but that cost is insignificant in the face of reassurance that the person with whom you are doing business is reliable and actually listens to you.

The crazy request may only be in there as reassurance that all the mundane details are being handled appropriately. If you screw up the barbershop quartet singing "Copacabana" to arriving guests while wearing Nicholas Cage masks and holding two quarters of a muskmelon apiece, with seeds, then you just might screw up the cake-cutting ceremony, too.

ghaff 373 days ago [-]
>I understand where you're coming from, but I don't agree about this particular request. It's definitely unusual, but I don't think it's "particularly" unusual.

I know it's just an example but this actually seems like a pretty good illustration of the sort of thing that falls into the category of: We can do it. We can even give you a pretty good idea of exactly how we need to do it. But it's going to cost you a pretty big premium.

(And I'd add that high-end hotels probably routinely squeeze a lot of fresh juice for breakfast and have lots of staff doing various prep for breakfast starting in thee wee hours. It may not be a job I'd personally want but this isn't asking for some death march that's much different from day-to-day hotel operations. They may need to hire some extra staff and maybe rent some more juicers but there's nothing inherently difficult about this problem.

user5994461 373 days ago [-]
You're looking at 1 or 2 tons of orange. It's fairly doable, given enough room with enough workers and juicers, and the supplier to deliver the oranges. I would guess that it's typical work for an hotel.
sdkjskf 373 days ago [-]
Forget the workers, you need to juice about 11 oranges a minute (4 oranges/glass)[1]. I'd guess that'd take 20 workers working with electric juicers.

Instead buy a dozen automatic juicers and charge the client to buy new ones.

[1]The juice in an orange is highly variable by season, producer, ect. Just add it to the bill.

fouc 371 days ago [-]
4 oranges * 700 people = 2800

add some buffer oranges

Try to do all the squeezing within an hour, as buffer on time.

3000 oranges / 60 minutes = 50 oranges per minute to process

Using a standing orange press - chop orange in half. Put halve into press, push press down, open it up, pop orange out. repeat.

So perhaps 1 orange every 5 seconds. (Batch cut a bunch up initially). Approx 12 oranges a minute, lets say 10 oranges a minute for an employee.

So 5 employees can press 50 oranges a minute.

Add an extra employee as buffer.

So 3000 oranges, 1 hour, and 6 employees.

taneq 373 days ago [-]
> it's even more of a red flag when your client does things to "test" you. Sounds like the kind of person who doesn't respect your professional ability, and won't trust you to do your job.

This isn't a test that you give to a consultant that you've been working with for years who's had ample opportunity to prove their worth. It's a screening test you give to a consultant that you're considering using but that you know nothing about.

Anyone who starts blustering about complete strangers having to respect their ability is probably someone you don't want to hire anyway.

BeetleB 373 days ago [-]
>It's a screening test you give to a consultant that you're considering using but that you know nothing about.

I'd suggest coming up with better strategies for that. You know, referrals and such.

avh02 373 days ago [-]
you just passed the orange juice test.

More seriously though:

>Sounds like the kind of person who doesn't respect your professional ability, and won't trust you to do your job.

There are a lot of crappy professionals out there, I've never been in a position to need to outsource or hire a contractor, but I'd definitely be very cautious about simply respecting everybody's professional ability simply because they might get offended because I didn't respect their professional ability.

I'm not saying "OJ Tests" are a straight-up measure, but you need some way to filter, even if it's subjective.

noonespecial 372 days ago [-]
>Plus, a client asking for something like this - that's a huge red flag that the person asking is going to be very demanding, very clueless, or both.

OR an indicator that you have failed to understand your client's motives and value judgments.

I've learned to never say "no" outright to tasks that are difficult, but not impossible; just unflinchingly quote the price at which I'd be willing to do it. These prices seemed absurd to me and I fully expected to be laughed at... and more times than not, the customer, with some relief, agreed on the spot.

These became some of my most interesting and profitable long-term relationships.

(It should be noted that the "absurdly" high price seems to have a huge filtering factor on the deluded people with unrealistic expectations. There is no small correlation between cluelessness and 'cheapness'.)

onion2k 373 days ago [-]
To be honest, if I asked a supplier that question and they said they could do it for the right price I'd be concerned about how they treat their staff, and likely wouldn't buy from them. Asking people to come in at 5am so you can make a buck is not a good way to run a business.
aeorgnoieang 372 days ago [-]
So every restaurant that serves breakfast at 7a should be closed down? Or should we prosecute the owners and managers of these restaurants too?

Obviously we should also prohibit security guards from being forced to work before ... 9a? or after ... 6p?

I think you're missing that the relevant people would already be working at these times regardless of any extra large orange juice orders needing to be filled.

zulln 373 days ago [-]
Pay people fair for the overtime and I see no big problem with this? All depends on how you define fair though.
dsr_ 373 days ago [-]
Convention hotels typically have staff 24 hours a day. They pay shift differentials. They can arrange for extra staff for big events.

The correct thing to do is for the hotel convention manager to say "I will get you a price for that by tomorrow," and go talk to the banquet manager, who will check:

- current price of oranges, and estimated yield and wastage

- number of juicing machines needed

- number of extra staff needed

and come back with a price that reflects the costs, the hotel's desire to make a profit, and their desire to land this particular meeting.

Quick estimate:

2 oz of juice per orange, 14 oz glasses, so seven oranges per glass, 700 glasses, that's 4900 oranges. Three oranges to the pound, 1617 pounds. Allow for 10% wastage, 1800 pounds. $1.32 a pound, $2400 for the oranges. A person with a juicer and a knife can process two oranges a minute, that's 2450 person-minutes, we have 120 minutes to do it, so we need 21 extra people. We pay for a full shift minimum, so $15/hour for 8 hours for 21 people is $2520. We have pitchers and glassware already.

At no profit the cost is $4920 for your 700 glasses of no-more-than-two-hours old hand-squeezed orange juice, and now the convention manager will look at the total price for your meeting and decide what to price it at -- but $10/glass is entirely plausible.

SketchySeaBeast 373 days ago [-]
I wonder what the orange juice test response to "No, I can't scrounge up enough staff to fill that order" is. Are logistical impediments acceptable, or should they just increase the price to something astronomical (top pay for onboarding and training new staff) to compensate?
jandrese 373 days ago [-]
It's a catering company, they are going to drive down to 7/11 and pick up enough random people milling around out front. If they're lucky they will get minimum wage, but at least it will all be cash.
SketchySeaBeast 373 days ago [-]
Yeah, I know in this scenario there are ways around - though I'm pretty sure hiring random people on the street is how Project Mayhem succeeded. I was trying to use that as an example for the logistics - if you come to me and ask me "I want a AAA video game" I'm not going go to be able to do that for you as I don't have the resources available.
derefr 370 days ago [-]
With an astronomical-enough price, you can afford to hire 10,000 random people, put them all through a college game-development program, and then train the 1% of them that turn out to be good at that particular job into competent game developers. Or maybe use the money as capital to acquire a game studio.
wycy 373 days ago [-]
Catering companies aren't exactly known for their good compensation and overtime pay packages.
onion2k 373 days ago [-]
Sure, but only if you run your business in a way that means people are able to say no. People will often agree to work unhealthy hours because they fear they'll be let go, or passed over for promotion, if they refuse. Exploiting that fear is very wrong in my opinion. The way the article frames the question doesn't make it clear either way, but personally I'd be very concerned if someone said they could do a job if I paid enough without adding a caveat that they'd also need to consult their staff.
kaybe 373 days ago [-]
There must be some sort of machine out there than you can rent in sufficient numbers and load the day before.. and maybe make the guests get it themselves (the breakfast will most probably be a buffet anyway since any other setup would be insane).
brianwawok 373 days ago [-]
> Asking people to come in at 5am so you can make a buck is not a good way to run a business.

What? There are millions of jobs that require workers earlier than 9am. So I guess you don't like early mornings, so we should shut all of those down?

throwawayboye 372 days ago [-]
A livable wage and modest healthcare sounds like a nice compromise.
throwawayboye 371 days ago [-]
Yeah, HN seems like the kind of place to downvote that comment. Maybe if I had suggested healthcare and livable wages on the blockchain or using React it would be more popular.
dang 371 days ago [-]
Can you please not post unsubstantive comments to Hacker News?


jpindar 372 days ago [-]
Outside of the HN bubble, there are lots of people working at 5am.

I worked night shift job once, for a few months. I kinda liked it.

marcosdumay 372 days ago [-]
> Plus, a client asking for something like this - that's a huge red flag that the person asking is going to be very demanding, very clueless, or both.

That client is warning you upfront of an unusual requirement, without you having to digg around, and before you even quote a price. Do you think this one is entitled?

toast0 372 days ago [-]
I don't think you necessarily have to ask a stock test question here either. Maybe for a banquet/convention facility it makes sense, if you don't have any particularly tricky requests at the time of booking.

For a software project, your project is probably the tricky thing already. The Orange Juice test there is I just told you want I need, did you put any thought into how you might solve it, what the steps would be, how that would translate into cost, and can you communicate that to the client. Or, did you just throw out a basic number, with no details and no real thought behind it. Asking clarifying questions, or showing an example of something close to the solution is a good sign too.

theprotocol 373 days ago [-]
I found this article hard to follow. I feel like there's a deliberate coyness and "buildup" but it's way too playful for what it is and all but guarantees the "payoff" ends up falling short of expectations, which it does. The playfulness is distracting.

The supposed payoff is semantical nonsense, where the manager who agrees to deliver on the request doesn't explicitly specify that the cost would go up. But that's only because it's related as a summary, and in a real conversation, costs would be discussed.

george_morgan 373 days ago [-]
It's a really bizarre bit of writing in general. I'm oddly bothered by how much this guy hates breakfast, without actually explaining why.

> “A sales breakfast for seven hundred people?” I grimaced. “That’s downright disgusting!”


oarsinsync 373 days ago [-]
Given the relation to "business lunch" in their conversation, I suspect it's down to asking 700 staff to give up their morning with their families, setting up their day with their regular morning routine, and instead spend that time at work.

I don't think he hates breakfast, I think he hates having to give up his breakfast to be at work.

user5994461 373 days ago [-]
That doesn't explain why they hate sales lunch so much.
oarsinsync 373 days ago [-]
Giving up your lunch break (emphasis on break) from work to carry on working is in the same ballpark.
golemotron 373 days ago [-]
This is something called 'banter.' It was common in speech and writing in the 19th to 20th century. Find dramas or comedies from the middle 1980s and watch them. It's good for cultural literacy, especially if you're going to encounter writing from that period.
fjsolwmv 371 days ago [-]
Thanks for explaining why I hated _The Goal_, 2 pages of business advice ("Try kaizen and supply chain optimization") wrapped in a Twilight-esque padding of alcoholism, loveless marriage, and parenting.
HeyLaughingBoy 372 days ago [-]
Upvoted, giggling all the way.
mannykannot 373 days ago [-]
It is just part of the padding needed to fill out a one-paragraph idea into an article.
JdeBP 372 days ago [-]
It's not actually an article at all, but is rather an excerpt from a book, from 1985.
logfromblammo 372 days ago [-]
Seven hundred salespeople in the same room is already a crime against humanity waiting to happen.
Timpy 373 days ago [-]
>> “So how does it work?”

I know this is supposed to be a parable, but it reads like a script from an infomercial

mcintyre1994 373 days ago [-]
It reads a lot like the style of a fake conversation written as a sample piece for a "buy fake content for content marketing" startup on HN recently. I'm sure it's unrelated, but it definitely feels like the same style of writing to me.
kgwgk 373 days ago [-]
Tell me more!
redisman 372 days ago [-]
As a {consumerDemography} I find {product} to be really {expletive}!
mooneater 372 days ago [-]
Sadly typical writing style for business self help.
ryandrake 373 days ago [-]
The entire article could have been two sentences.
destraynor 372 days ago [-]
Hey folks, Author of that post (but not the story contained in it) here.

Jerry Weinberg published that story in a book titled The Secrets of Consulting. It's a very good book though, going by the comments here, many of you won't like it (or have never consulted).

I published this piece ~7 years ago I'd say, it popped up today as Jerry died sadly a couple of days ago (a real loss, if this style of article isn't for you, you might enjoy The Psychology of Computer Programming[1]).

Anyways, just wanted to give context here amongst the criticisms.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Psychology-Computer-Programming-Silve...

DanielBMarkham 373 days ago [-]
Consulting is all about having difficult conversations. Good consultants should be interviewing the client as much as the client is interviewing them. The OJ test sounds like a pretty good test conversation to have.

As a consultant, you're entering a world where really smart people have already taken a run at the problem and failed. They probably know all the angles. Too much optimism or too much negativity is not going to help -- in fact, it can lead to a lot of wasted money. I usually say something like "That's looks impossible. Let's figure it out." Some phrase that both acknowledges the difficulty and offers some optimism.

As trite as it sounds, what they say is true: It's a journey. The really wild thing is that even when the client describes something that's dead easy? It's still a journey. That's because it's not easy to them. It's just easy to you. Most times the conversations around problems that are easily solved are the most difficult to have. The client has already thrown away the answer (mostly in my experience because they didn't understand the answer in the first place even though they thought they did) and your job is to get them to reconsider it.

Also, hand out oranges at the door at put juicers on each table. Then each person can have as much OJ as they want as recently-squeezed as they'd like. (Solving the problem, of course, is not the point of the essay)

superice 373 days ago [-]
I am not keen on the analogy with orange juice, but the gist of it works: the company I work at got a large contract by knowing the business inside and out. A client came to us an asked us if we could build a certain system. We said 'yes, we could, but we actually think you're trying to build the wrong solution to your problem. Your actual problem as we understand it is this, and we think such-and-so is a solution to that'. They were very impressed.

It is a bold move to pull something off like that, and you can only do that if the people at the table are not clueless salesmen, but knowledgeable people about what you are going to be consulting on.

I think this is the real case for the orange juice test: understanding the implications of squizing so much oranges before 7am, being able to recognize the logistical problems around that, and being able to make an informed recommendation: 'Yes, we can do that, but at this price point because x'. Perhaps it would be even better to suggest a solution that achieves the same end-goal (whatever that might be in this case) through different means.

franciscop 373 days ago [-]
I see many negative comments here, and this article feels like a tale more than a real story.

My mother is great in business and that is one of the main things I've ever learned. Never say a straight no, it always boils down to pricing. With enough budget, all projects are possible. There is no BS in that.

Want some Big Data or ML for simple analytics? Sure, I'll find someone to do it or learn enough myself, but you're gonna pay for it. Blockchain? Same thing.

Nasrudith 373 days ago [-]
The biggest logical flaw here is the assumption that estimation is the most important skill here which isn't the case. Worse yet is it also assumes you already know an approximate answer which bypasses any innovators. The smug juicer here could be asking for several million dollars of load balancing servers in the old way when other techniques could solve it and he has already dismissed them as frauds because he hasn't heard of sticky sessions.
war1025 372 days ago [-]
The take away is that the two parties need to be able to work together to solve the problem at hand.

In your example, that sounds like a client that the business might not want to deal with. That's a good thing to know.

r_smart 373 days ago [-]
This reads like those stories you'll hear delivered by a certain kind of priest / pastor / etc. It feels contrived, and buries a decent piece of advice in a boring and phony-sounding parable.
arendtio 373 days ago [-]
Some seem to be appalled by the idea that this thing is a test or trick. But in the end, the essence is to find people who understand the problem space and that they should not eliminate options because they think they are unreasonable. Instead, they should present all available options to you and add context (like recommendations). In the end, you should be able to see a clear picture of the situation, all available options, and related consequences before deciding which way to go.

Often you can conduct such 'tests' without some hypothetical situation and just present them one of your harder problems you are currently trying to solve and look how they react.

RootKitBeerCat 373 days ago [-]
Too long a story for too weak a farfetched made up challenge... if a client ever asked me to have 700 tall glasses of fresh OJ, it would be a 2 second answer “Yes, I’ll order from the local organic market, each gallon of fresh OJ costs X, and you’d need x gallons”, not some big imaginary struggle...

a more effective or gripping version should be like... “The Apollo 13 Test”...

HeyLaughingBoy 372 days ago [-]
... and you'd fail this particular test unless you could find an organic market that had just squeezed x gallons of fresh OJ within 5-7AM.
ksec 373 days ago [-]
I have also been doing this for a long time and I was surprised when this article took some attention six - seven years ago when it first published. ( Gosh it was that long since I read it? Seems like yesteryear to me ) It isn't a trick, nor is it a test. Just truth to be told.

With the abundant of information, expertise and tech, there isn't really anything that is impossible unless it is pure sci-fi. The problem comes with how much you are willing to spend / pay. Even if the price cant be agreed at first, then we look at how often are they going to do it. Once every week? months? or one off?

The biggest biggest problem of most ( if not all ), these people are unwilling to paid the price of such event even if it was hosted at lunch time or dinner time ( normal working hours ) and have frozen concentrated orange juice ( Minimal Preparation ). These kind of customer are more common in non tech industry.

ghaff 373 days ago [-]
>impossible unless it is pure sci-fi.

It also depends on the timeframe. If someone comes to me and needs some complicated job (doesn't really matter what it--just assume it's something that normally takes weeks to months) done overnight, the money doesn't really matter. There just isn't enough runway.

Of course, as the timeframe gets longer, things start to become possible for a premium cost, phased delivery, etc.

slavik81 373 days ago [-]
Has anyone actually been involved in fulfilling this orange juice request? I'm not convinced the author understands the problem well enough to judge what the appropriate response is. It may very well be less difficult than he expects, at least for a hotel with the right staff and equipment on hand.
compiler-guy 372 days ago [-]
"at least for a hotel with the right staff and equipment on hand."

That is exactly what he is seeking to determine: If the hotel has the right staff and equipment.

But it is very rare that a hotel has enough staff to freshly squeeze orange juice for 700 people in two hours.

apo 373 days ago [-]
That’s a real problem. I can help you with it, … and this is how much it will cost.

I must be missing something. How is this a better answer than the other "flunking" responses?

All the consultant has done is slap a price tag on what must be an ill-informed opinion given the lack of follow-up questions.

neves 372 days ago [-]
In LeanPub you can all of Weinberg books: https://leanpub.com/u/jerryweinberg

They are full of hard earned knowledge that will make you a better professional. Take a look at the bundles.

anonytrary 373 days ago [-]
I just learned of this yesterday. Did you post this because you read ohjeez's comment https://news.ycombinator.com/reply?id=17721389, or is this purely a coincidence ;)?
tosh 373 days ago [-]
yes, not a coincidence

[edit: I thought it might yield an interesting discussion and imho it did]

anonytrary 372 days ago [-]
I agree, I mentioned that because I found it serendipitous.
lwhi 373 days ago [-]
I actually have a different take on this. There's a difference between filling the role of a service provider vs. a consultant.

I get the point that it's important to meet a brief, but I think the role of a consultant needs to go further.

A consultant asks 'why' to fully understand the problem. There needs to be an element of research and inquiry to provide consultancy, even if that is just a brief conversation before breakfast.

Why? Because, if you're solving a problem, it's important to understand what the end goal is. I'd start by finding out why orange juice, in particular, is important.

After meeting a brief, there's always a chance a situation or process can be improved. Why pay money for a consultant if this isn't what you're looking for?

cift 373 days ago [-]
A similar idea that I like is Van Halen's brown M&M's clause. Worth a read


valleyer 373 days ago [-]
Similar, but doesn't really seem to be the same thing.

In the Van Halen case, they're trying to see if the service provider even finds out about the clause; to pass the test is to weed out the brown candies. In the orange juice case, the orange juice is clearly requested; to pass the test is apparently to be able to work through all the potential prerequisites.

compiler-guy 372 days ago [-]
Yeah, the M&Ms clause is entirely about, "How carefully did they read the contract, and how detailed are they in carrying it out."
confiscate 373 days ago [-]
what if the sales/banquet manager says Yes to the outrageous proposal, and can/will actually deliver on it because they really want your business?

e.g. they go out of their way to call their friends and family to come in 7 a.m. to help squeeze orange juice for you

then your stupid "test" just "eliminated" an outstanding provider

you are the client, can afford to play games. To you, it's just a test, just screwing around. But to the manager/provider, it's actual business, income, livelihood, food on the table for kids at home

maybe act like an Adult and not play stupid test games? It's business

sshine 373 days ago [-]
> To you, it's just a test, just screwing around.

You're not screwing around.

Your project might be full of these. It's the consultant's job to address them reasonably.

Testing people's ability to analyse what you're saying is a real need when people are willing to say "How hard can it be?" If they say yes, you'd be paying for the OJ. If you're just interested in the response, you say that afterwards. If they say "Sure thing," you can follow up with "Have you made this much OJ within that amount of time before? How would that work?" and analyse their response. If they haven't and the sales rep spends time to think, that's a good sign, too.

Another commenter compared it to a canary in a coal mine.

roel_v 373 days ago [-]
More likely, the guy just gets an orange squeezing machine. Every supermarket has one, he can just have 3000 oranges delivered the day before, load them in the machine at 6 and have his staff pour them out at 7. I don't see the logistical problem here.

Edit: a quick google shows that renting such a machine costs ~ USD 100.

user5994461 373 days ago [-]
Have you tried the automatic squeezer from the supermarket? It's so slow and it doesn't work well with more than 2 oranges at a time. It's probably gonna break apart before it finishes the first hundred.
deadmetheny 373 days ago [-]
Two or three high-speed industrial juicers would be more than enough to handle the task. I mean, really, this isn't that bad of a job for a competent banquet service. You're looking at a lot of oranges (4000 or so, about two tons) and a lot of work, but banquet catering is always a lot of work, especially for 700 people. The instance on large glasses and fresh squeezed OJ is gonna make it expensive, but if they've said it's an established tradition then it's fair to assume that they've done this before and are aware of the cost. We'd be clear about the fact it's gonna be expensive just to be sure, but would definitely say that we can get it done.
ozim 373 days ago [-]
I am client but I cannot afford not to play games. I don't buy consultant time for my fun, I buy so my business earn money. For me it is also business/home/income/livelihood on line, if guy instead of going their way and deliver I might be thousands dollars back, my customers angry, and me not being able to pay my regular employees.
user5994461 373 days ago [-]
Then the sales/banquet manager is clueless or delusional, possibly both.

The manager can't pull 2 tons of oranges out of his ass at the last minute and they ain't going to squeeze themselves. It takes some planning and preparation.

wruza 373 days ago [-]
My usual routine of accepting tasks is: wruza, see this endless field of grass with no civilization in sight? Soon hundreds of people will be waiting here every morning for their orange juice. No pressure, you have a week.

I bet that looking for someone who doesn’t rage hiss at that would take much more time than is usually required to accomplish everything to at least 80%.

Salesmen are always high with their “so many people to choose from, let’s choose”. Nope, you have no choice actually, if you really need your “orange juice” thing. No matter how many smart stories you spit out.

simonswords82 373 days ago [-]
Ah man that's a shame I love Des's work but this article wasn't good.

It's simple - just be open about what you want to achieve and assess the potential partners feedback through a series of Q & A.

Build a relationship based on trust and communication. There's no need to pass any test, let alone one based on fruit.

I will agree with the sentiment around business breakfasts though. The most important meal of the day shouldn't be some bullshit breakfast meeting.

ozim 373 days ago [-]
But I don't want to build relationship I need one off breakfast for business people (or other consultancy one off work). I need it done, I need to hire new guy because my usual ones are not available. I don't want to get ripped off.

If I want to build relationship I would start with small project and work with more important ones over months with that contractor.

But reality is you have stuff to be done, you have to hire someone from the street NOW and deliver. You don't have budget/time to test out 5 guys.

destraynor 372 days ago [-]
Hey SimonsWords82 - Des here. Just wanted to say, I love this article, but it's not by me.

It's a story from Gerry Weinberg's "The Secrets of Consulting". Gerry is an exceptional writer, who sadly passed away 2 days ago.

simonswords82 372 days ago [-]
Hi Des - thanks for the reply and insight I did not know that. I'll have a read of The Secrets of Consulting as it's the core of what I do and despite not enjoying this anecdote I'm sure there's some good stuff in there.

Meanwhile, keep up the great work you and your team do, I'm a big fan.

Edit: P.S. It's Simon Swords - an Irish name, we've got a castle just north of Dublin apparently that I've yet to claim!

destraynor 370 days ago [-]
Ah! I know the castle well. Totally worth claiming: http://www.fingaldublin.ie/interior-pages/activities-attract...
GoMonad 372 days ago [-]
Reminds me of Van Halen's Brown M&M clause. A test they put in their riders to check if it would be safe to play a gig.


11235813213455 373 days ago [-]
on the other hand, it's much more beneficial to eat a whole orange with all the fiber
372 days ago [-]
ljm 373 days ago [-]
This just sounds like basic expectation management, fluffed up a little to make it sound like more than it really is (which is funny because the 'test' itself sets up an identical situation). It reads like a fantasy of a conversation rather than one that actually happened.

Of course you're going to work with someone who is up-front with you when other people are just saying yes and no. "I hired you because you were engaged with my proposal and were clear about expectations" doesn't have the same ring to it because it doesn't beat around the bush.

doctorRetro 373 days ago [-]
I would have severe reservations about working for an employer that resorted to his sort of dishonest tactic at an interview.
golergka 372 days ago [-]
Sounds extremely similar to the M&M test.
msla 372 days ago [-]
Counterpoint: https://xkcd.com/1425/

Sometimes, in software, things are hard because they're still research problems. Solving those problems means paying Ph.D.s to try to make progress on them, with no guarantee of results. If you had guarantees of results, it wouldn't be research, would it? Of course not.

Since most businesses aren't going to allocate money for grants, and since firing someone for negative results still doesn't get you your money back or a return on your investment, trying to negotiate with a client whose problem involves a fundamental breakthrough in computer vision, or speech recognition, or attempting to do what Theranos promised isn't going to be fruitful, because success in that field isn't a matter of money. It's a matter of, more than anything else, luck, in getting the right minds in the right context to make the right advances, assuming the advances are even possible.

cityzen 373 days ago [-]
"we want you to do this really complicated project"

"that sounds challenging, I think I can help!"

"jkjk there's no project, just wanted to see if you pass the Orange Juice Test ™. The project is just a WordPress site!"


the end.

I'm glad I don't deal with people like this.

Edit: I'm unreasonably irritated with this article... this part really drives home how asinine the whole thing is:

“But surely you considered more than that? No doubt I could get workers to squeeze oranges at 5 a.m. if I paid them a thousand dollars apiece. But would you be willing to pay that much?”

“I might, or I might not, but it’s not for the banquet managers to decide that for me. That’s my job, not theirs. If your price had been too high, we would have eliminated you, too. But that’s a different test. There’s no sense in getting a low price if they can’t do the job, or if they’re going to con you and give you canned orange juice in small glasses”

so you ask for all this stupid stuff (just a prank, bro!) and then when it comes to saying, "sure, but it will be more expensive" then that's ANOTHER test?? So as a consultant I should drop everything to listen to your tall tale about things to don't actually exist just to show you that my porridge is not too hot or not too cold and MAYBE gain the distinct honor and privilege to work with you? GTFO.

laurieg 373 days ago [-]
I think you are taking the article a touch too literally. It's not telling you to give consultants made up tasks to find out how they reply, it's telling your to listen to consultants responses when you give them difficult but not impossible tasks. The story about orange juice is just a nice example to make it easy to understand.
cityzen 373 days ago [-]
My point is more about how do you equate the level of difficulty of 700 glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice to software or anything else? At what point are you just a lying?

I've been consulting for 20 years and most clients I come across that subscribe to this idea that they are the only one with anything at stake here are the WORST clients. They are the ones that make you pass all these tests and jump through all of these hoops only to realize that they're so unorganized and dysfunctional that they can't even manage their own projects.

I see the point, I just think it's horrible advice, especially in this new world where everyone thinks they're some startup CEO that's so brave for laying it all on the line they can act like this with complete disregard of the experience the other person brings to the table. If you are constantly running into issues with consultants/contractors/vendors not producing, there's a good chance that you're the problem.

aeorgnoieang 373 days ago [-]
I'm confused as to why you're reacting so hostilely.

> My point is more about how do you equate the level of difficulty of 700 glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice to software or anything else? At what point are you just a lying?

Who's equating the difficulty of the contrived example to anything else? Beyond equating them both as something that's difficult but not impossible?

I don't know your background but I'd imagine you might be able to understand, or know, that migrating a company, or even a small group or a single person, from one software system to another is often a difficult project. I can certainly appreciate the advice to immediately dismiss anyone from consideration for helping me with such a project if they tell me that the migration is either 'impossible' or 'easy'.

cityzen 372 days ago [-]
I'm not hostile, I just don't see the point in this. Funny enough, I googled "The Orange Juice Test" and found this explanation that makes a ton of sense:


Even though this rule of thumb is very simple, it is very important and as always, has two perspectives that need to be considered, one of the recipient and another of the provider.

Service recipient perspective: A service recipient looks for some one who is knowledgeable about the request and shows enough signs of comprehension of the subject area/ domain. A provider who says that a request is not possible doesn't get the business. So is some one who says he/she/their organization will get it done, without getting in to the details. The person who is most likely to be given the business is some one who gets into the details and can quote a price and give reasons for the price. Of course giving details for the price quoted is not a guarantee to get the business, as the price may be too high for the service recipient.

Service provider perspective:This is about two things

#1 Knowing one's subject/domain well: The story may be about preparing fresh orange juice. But in real life, it is applicable for any work that we do. You the reader may be a developer, team lead, software engineer or a project manager. When some one asks whether an activity or a task can be done, you must be proficient enough about the subject to provide a correct response.

#2 Knowing the real cost and willing to quote the same: This is also about knowing the price of the service to be provided, being honest enough to quote it and also deliver the service provided at the cost promised. This strictly means no cheating ( doing the equivalent of promising fresh orange juice and delivering bottled juice or promising a large glass and delivering a small one). While people may think that quoting the actual cost will drive away prospective customers, truth is that genuine customers who require the service appreciate honest and transparent response.


I guess my frustration boils down to the fact that intercom's blog used to be fantastic and this feels like a weak article. All filler and then two measly sentences to explain it all:

The key idea here is to propose a task you know to be extremely difficult but possible, and then measure the candidate’s reaction. If they are defeatist (“That can’t be done!“) or deluded (“I’d code that in a weekend“) then that’s what you’d be hiring.

I guess my hostility (I call it passion ;) ) is that there's not a lot of actionable advice to take from this article. The other article I found was basically the same but with a lot more meat around the point.

Link to other article I found: http://mysticmundane.blogspot.com/2012/05/orange-juice-test-...

brobdingnagians 373 days ago [-]
Agreed, if the point is to listen carefully and understand if someone else is truly processing what you are saying, but not agreed if it means making things up for the sake of "testing" someone. Sometimes people make up tests or crises in dating as well, just to "test" the other person; you should carefully consider a person in the circumstances you find yourself in, and should find activities where things come out naturally; but who wants to find out that their significant other made up difficult things to test them?
dazc 373 days ago [-]
I'm not keen on the orange juice analogy either but I do agree with the gist of it.

You ask if a certain task or project can be accomplished and the people who say yes without any hint of a problem are almost certain to be the people who let you down.

The guy who asks for more information and, maybe, presents you with reasons why your project isn't so simple as you thought is much more likely to deliver.

hrktb 373 days ago [-]
I found the test to be unpractical in that you need accurate prior knowledge of how difficult the task will be to the subject, which makes the whole situation weird.

If the hotel you are talking to is ready to make crazy things at crazy prices, they will answer “yes” to anything that can be solved by throwing money at the problem.

On the other hand, for hotels that don’t deal with lunatics, they will refuse to deal with you the moment they smell your problem is bullshit or unreasonable.

In the end, I’d think false positives would be extremely frequent with that approach.

hobbyjogger 372 days ago [-]
Good point.

I worked one summer at a five-star hotel in a ski town in the rockies. At various times and for various clients (typically on short notice) we (1) hosted a banquet for a former U.S. president that involved locking down the hotel with the secret service, (2) drove 2 of the hotel's SUVs 100+ miles round trip to buy dozens upon dozens of suitcases for a member of the Saudi royal family, (3) turned a conference room into a fiber connected operations center for a team of high-frequency traders that was visiting from NYC for two weeks.

I am certain that the hotel manager would have told all of these guests that we would absolutely find a way to handle their requests, no problem. And we did. That is part of the reason they were at that particular hotel in the first place.

MrEfficiency 373 days ago [-]
> the people who say yes without any hint of a problem are almost certain to be the people who let you down.

Idk, people ask, "CAN YOU MAKE THIS APP?", I always answer, "I can".

If someone asked me if I can build some robotic thing, I'd answer "I can".

If they asked me "Can you build X in Y Weeks?" then I need to know the project.

I have been able to do pretty much everything thrown at me. The biggest question is how long we have and specifying what we actually want.

Steltek 373 days ago [-]
If they ask simple questions, that might be a warning for you as well that they're in over their heads. It also seems to me that in this scenario, you'd be the subject matter expert and would need to set the right expectations so that everyone walks away happy in the end.
stephengillie 373 days ago [-]
But then they ask "Can you put 45 cases of cans onto a grocery store shelf per hour, for 6 hours straight, every weeknight between the hours of 10pm and 4am?"
MrEfficiency 372 days ago [-]
"Possibly, can I see the details of this task?

I can work the hours, but I'm not sure the logistics and ergonomics of transporting that quantity of material."

cityzen 373 days ago [-]
I can't tell you the # of agencies and consultants I've had to work with that said all the right things and turned out to be steaming piles of hot garbage when it came to delivering the work.
itronitron 373 days ago [-]
This also gets to the fact that one of the top priorities (for the PM) is to minimize risk and that entails knowing/learning the options. Someone that can identify the risks and costs as well as recommend a better solution or present other options is providing a lot of value and building a lot of trust.
BeetleB 373 days ago [-]
I think what's annoying many here is not that they disagree with you. It's that they agree with you but don't like his strategy for finding out if the counterpart is this way. Putting people through tests is not negotiating, and it sounds like he thinks it is.

Look at it from a hotel manager's perspective. Let's say he normally is willing to negotiate, so he'd want to say "That is difficult because of X - would you consider Y instead?" But he's also wise enough to see he is being tested, and is this is triggering all types of alarms in his head. He's had his own repertoire of bad clients, and so instead of negotiating, he'll put him through his own tests. He'll just say "No" and see if the client is willing to negotiate or is adamant, and see if the client fails the test.

I'm not in the business so I can't say for sure. Sitting here, I find it to be a poor assumption to assume the client has the upper hand (because he has business to offer and money in hand) over the hotel manager - and this person comes off as assuming as much. Consider that the hotel manager may have other options, or that this type of a deal is a net negative for him (even if the hotel is well compensated for this, there are non-financial costs).

oarsinsync 373 days ago [-]
Having suffered at the hands of bad consultants, I'd definitely rather risk losing a good one if it increases the chances of me not working with a bad one again.

Ultimately, a consultant needs to pitch themselves to me if they want my money. Don't want to pitch because you're already established and don't feel like it's justified? That's absolutely your decision.

EDIT: this only applies to new consultants I've not worked with before. If I've worked with you before, I already know whether or not I want to work with you again. I don't need a filter like this.

tjoff 373 days ago [-]
Well, the other guy of the story wasn't even aware he had been tested. In the real world you probably use the real problem as the test if at all possible.
brobdingnagians 373 days ago [-]
I'd probably charge them extra for it; there was a game dev consultant blog article on HN awhile ago where he charged them extra for calling him out for a ridiculous reason; same thing, if they are going to throw out phantom difficult projects, they obviously expect higher expertise, so charge them for the expertise.
kobrad 373 days ago [-]
I think the smug tone is getting to you. Like most surefire recipes for knowing things in advance this makes no real sense. But hey, at least they can smile over their cups or whatever
vinceguidry 373 days ago [-]
It's just sales mindset. You don't have to deal with it as a dev if you don't want to. Just get a job and enjoy a salary.

You need sales mindset, that is, the ability to navigate the landscape of people's fears and desires, particularly in a business context, when you're trying to make potentially life-changing deals. If you're doing super high-touch sales like this, then you're dealing with people that can take you from $X00,000 in revenue this year to $X,000,000.

That's why you do it. If you're not adding zeroes, don't bother.

user5994461 373 days ago [-]
You need to practice this if you're going into any sort of contracting or managing or senior engineering role.

You will have to estimate projects as a client or for a client or for yourself, it's critical to understand what may be done or not done within some amount of time/money.

Call it engineer mindset if you will. Figure out you're going on a death march before you're marching.

hudibras 373 days ago [-]
It's just a story.
close04 373 days ago [-]
There's a solid idea to it, judge a man by how upfront he is. The practical value though is close to 0. So the story shouldn't be judged as such. Read it as a fable but with human characters :).

Most people I worked with who started the conversation with "...but it's going to cost you" were basically preparing me to be overcharged and judging how open I am to it. And in hindsight they did. Maybe they also call it the orange juice test...

xamuel 373 days ago [-]
>a fable but with human characters

There's a word for that: parable.

close04 373 days ago [-]
Thanks, was looking for that :).
BeetleB 373 days ago [-]
If you're going to tell a story to make a point, make sure the story is in sync with the point you are trying to tell. And definitely don't mess it up with a bad story. If you cannot construct a good narrative, just state the point outright.
bitwize 373 days ago [-]
Reminds me of Van Halen and the brown M&Ms.
nielsbot 372 days ago [-]
TL;DR: Avoid hiring people/companies that seem delusional ("no problem at all!") or defeatist ("that's impossible") when asked to bid on a challenging (impossible?) task.
compiler-guy 372 days ago [-]
The key is that it is "challenging, but possible". For the specific test: "Can you provide a very large amount of very freshly squeezed Orange Juice at an annoying time", the answer for a good provider is, "Yes, but I'll need a large staff and some logistical coordination. That is expensive, but if you are prepared to pay, I can do it."

If you say, "Not possible", you have failed because it is obviously possible, it just takes time and money.

If you say, "No problem", you have failed, because you don't understand what makes it difficult.

Possible but expensive.

seanhunter 373 days ago [-]
The premise of this article that you assess people's honesty and reliability by ambushing them with a trick (heuristic which is opaque to them) expecting only certain responses to be "correct", is intrinsically dishonest and low integrity. Although I would like to think that I would often "pass the test" here, I would be extremely reluctant to work with anyone who had pulled any bush league BS like this.

In my mind this is very similar to interviewing someone with a trick question/riddle/conundrum and failing them if they don't answer one of a specific set of "right answers" that only you know. It's a great way to feel smart by rejecting people but not a great way to discriminate between good and poor candidates.

brobdingnagians 373 days ago [-]
Totally agree; starting any relationship with a lie is a terrible idea. I think the "Reverse Orange Juice Test" is that anyone who uses the orange juice test on you is being dishonest, and therefore disqualifies themselves from being a client.

Same with the "difficult but do-able" side of things. It might be difficult but do-able for most people, but the person you are talking to has already done it and is going to package something up for you based on their expertise. Like every situation, honest, realistic discussion of the process is the real winner. Tricks don't work; communication does.

michaelfeathers 373 days ago [-]
What lie?
mcherm 373 days ago [-]
Stating that you need all that orange juice (which you don't actually need).
bena 373 days ago [-]
I'd focus less on the name of the test. It's a story that's being passed down from someone else to someone else.

None of these people are booking banquet halls and asking about orange juice.

The setup is kind of ridiculous and I suspect just a little bit made up just to give it a pithy name that makes people say "What's the orange juice test?" so you can go into this whole spiel about banquet halls.

The core idea is sound: Don't work with people who either don't know what they're doing or try to make your decisions for you. But I wouldn't work with anybody calling it the orange juice test either, because it seems like something someone made up to feel smart by knowing arbitrary jargon.

IanPBann 373 days ago [-]
Yes, the core idea of looking for someone who neither says they can do something difficult really simply nor says they can't do it is sound.

It's the idea of requesting the contractor to give feedback on a task that you have no intention of having them complete that people (including me) are taking issue with.

The title of the test is irrelevant - the test could easily be asking a contractor if they could develop an application that does abc in such-and-such a time-frame then turning round and telling them "I don't actually want an application that does that, I just wanted to see what you'd say".

372 days ago [-]
michaelfeathers 373 days ago [-]
Here's where I think you and others are missing something. Orange juice is in the hypothetical that they are discussing. There's nothing that says you have to make up a request. It can be a legitimate request, it just wasn't in the hypothetical.

The key thing is whether the response is "that's impossible" or "you can have that for this price." In the anecdote, the businessman told Gerald that he'd already passed the test.

372 days ago [-]
feintruled 372 days ago [-]
I don't think so.. it's definitely implied that you ask for something more than you need and then walk back from it. Like he says "“Oh you don’t really intend to have the breakfast. It’s just part of the test."
372 days ago [-]
mabbo 373 days ago [-]
> failing them if they don't answer one of a specific set of "right answers"

A few years ago I did a round of interviews at Google. Despite what they say about not doing those kinds of questions anymore, they gave me a whole slew of them, in programming form. Not "how much would it cost to wash all the windows in NYC", but questions like "given a grid of land, each block having a price, pick the largest rectangle under $X".

If I'd heard of it before and knew the solution already, I did great. If I hadn't, I did poorly- but generally figured out the algorithm they wanted within a day- just not in the 45 minutes given. Alas, I guess I'm not "Googly" enough.

ewiewi 373 days ago [-]
I don't know, the two questions are nothing alike:

One is asking for a guesstimate, while the other is a proper optimisation problem. To me it's a valid interview question, albeit a bit difficult for a short session.

mabbo 373 days ago [-]
There's a specific best solution involving dynamic programming. If you've heard the answer, like say if you spent a month reading a bunch of common programming interview questions, then you can 'solve' it in 15 minutes. If you haven't, then you need to be ready to invent the same solution in 45 minutes (less the 5 minutes spent explaining the problem).

Maybe Google (and the other big tech companies using the same style of interview) is looking for the types who can brilliantly solve problems like that in 40 minutes, but they're instead going to hire a lot of guys who read the book of problems ahead of time.

foobiekr 373 days ago [-]
They don’t read books, they solve leetcode problems.

A friend was obsessed with getting into FAANG and relentlessly drilled leetcode problems. There’s a whole community around it, basically memorizing enough toy problems that they can pass these interviews.

The companies should know by now that these clever problems aren’t really that clever. I have not interviewed in a long time but I think I’d get kind of depressed if an interviewer asked me 2sum. I’d just lose respect for the company.

BeetleB 373 days ago [-]
I've solved this very problem without reading the answer. If you understand dynamic programming, this is simply testing your skills in it (although I'd agree it may be too much for a short session).
mabbo 372 days ago [-]
Sure, but usually the problem is decorated in a few layers of bullshit to hide what the true problem is. I remember the core, actual problem, but that wasn't what got presented. So take off another 5 to 10 minutes cutting through that.
brianwawok 373 days ago [-]
And neither are really great predictors of coding ability.

But when you have the #1 name in the world for a brand, it's OK to throw out 99 good people for every 100 that apply.

373 days ago [-]
LandR 373 days ago [-]
Are you allowed to Google in these interview questions?
7952 373 days ago [-]
But this situation will come up organically when you are getting started with a client. Everything you do costs money and it is ethical to be transparent about that. Because the client may not want you to spend thousands on a particular part of the project that they don't actually care about. And there could be an oppurtunity cost in terms of other objectives.

Of course there are exceptions to this. Sometimes it makes sense to overprice work because you know the client will uneccessarily nitpick minor details. It makes sense to accomodate this up to a point, but you can't be completely transparent about what it costs. You don't always know how fussy the client will be ahead of time.

lmm 373 days ago [-]
Responding to client requests is a core competency. It's absolutely something you want to test in a potential supplier as part of your due diligence.
modzu 373 days ago [-]
interpreted charitably, the test is not to make up a false complex problem (if you're looking for a contractor for a trivial task you wouldn't even need the orange juice test). rather its just to be honest about the problem/challenge and listen carefully to the response?
sfRattan 373 days ago [-]
The article reminds me of Van Halen's M&M contract rider, though the Orange Juice Test in somewhat more fickle and hostile.

From Wikipedia:

> The band's demands were not limited to technical issues; their now-infamous rider specified that a bowl of M&M's, with all of the brown M&M's removed, was to be placed in their dressing room. According to David Lee Roth, this was listed in the technical portion of the contract not because the band wanted to make capricious demands of the venue, but rather as a test of whether or not the contract had actually been thoroughly read and honored, as it contained other requirements involving legitimate safety concerns. If the bowl was present, then the band members could safely assume the other, legitimate, items in the technical rider were being fulfilled to their satisfaction. Conversely, if the bowl was missing, or brown M&M's were present, then the band members would be within their rights to have the venue inspect the work, ask that it be redone, etc. Their concern for safety was real: during their earlier tours, not only had equipment been damaged, but several members of their road crew were nearly electrocuted, both due to inadequate safety measures and preparation on the part of the local venue. [1]

The big difference here is that the band were using the rider as a canary-in-a-coal-mine for real safety concerns and to see if the venue staff had read the fine print. The Orange Juice test serves a similar purpose, but it is more like many of the obnoxious 'gotcha' tech interview questions in which the interviewer has a you've-heard-this-one-before-or-you-haven't trick answer (that the interviewer almost definitely read somewhere and didn't figure out).

Different people (and especially different cultures, even within a country) do business in different ways. Expecting the contractor to act in a way you personally expect a good contractor would act isn't a reliable way to identify good contractors. It might be a good way to avoid false positives... But it probably creates lots of false negatives, which is wasteful and expensive in its own way over time.

I don't know if there's a better metric or test, but there's got to be a better one than early morning orange juice....

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Halen#Contract_riders

RootKitBeerCat 373 days ago [-]
This is a much better story, if only because it’s real, and involves contracts instead of hypothetical fake cult rituals.
barrkel 373 days ago [-]
The OJ story is just an analogy for any difficult but achievable ask used to test a service provider.
sarreph 373 days ago [-]
Yeah, when you finally book said venue, be sure to ask for a bowl of brown M&Ms at every table, just to be extra-sure. :)
itronitron 373 days ago [-]
and they need to be freshly sorted, that is very important
perl4ever 372 days ago [-]
"Expecting the contractor to act in a way you personally expect a good contractor would act isn't a reliable way to identify good contractors."

That seems like saying "expect the unexpected". It may sound clever, but I don't see how you can decide to expect something other than what you expect.

aeorgnoieang 373 days ago [-]
I got from the post that one could, and probably should, perform the test using a real project, ideally the project for which one wants to hire the person being interviewed. Or, that one could use a plausible (and related) project or sub-project to similarly gauge the interviewee's response.
resu_nimda 373 days ago [-]
That was the most painfully smug and contrived dialogue I've read since Atlas Shrugged. Would have been more effective if the whole thing was replaced by the two-sentence summary at the end.
doctorRetro 373 days ago [-]
I really hate the tradition that Tales-From-Tech, etc. need to be overtly smug and condescending. Cut the attitude, tell a story, impart a lesson.
titanomachy 372 days ago [-]
This hackneyed dialectical style seems to be pretty common in "business writing". Management consultants don't always write especially well, even if they're excellent persuasive speakers.
ABNWZ 373 days ago [-]
What were your issues with Atlas Shrugged if you don't mind me asking?
resu_nimda 373 days ago [-]
It's very heavy handed. The characters don't converse like real people, it feels like they're just vehicles for hitting you over the head with the author's message. Always with the befuddled idiot and the enlightened but exasperated one coyly dropping wisdom. Just didn't find it compelling.
r_smart 373 days ago [-]
The 100 page essay at the end that basically repeats the themes of the previous 800 pages, but with even less subtlety.

I like Rand btw, but that essay in a book of that length is pretty much inexcusable. Just write a collection of essays or something.

aeorgnoieang 372 days ago [-]
Long speeches tho were really once more common. I don't have a lot of 'feel' for this tho because I don't even listen to contemporary speeches (because I much prefer being able to read a transcript much more quickly).
r_smart 372 days ago [-]
I'm not really sure what you're arguing here.

The speech at the end is really just a disguised essay that summarizes everything you already have figured out, but does it really slowly, in a book that's already taken its sweet time. From the point of view of structuring a story, it's a waste of the reader's time. Furthermore, it's a violation of the long standing convention that when an author writes a book about something they don't just come out and say what it's about. They paint it into the characters and setting, and let the ideas blossom over the course of the story.

I don't think you can defend it by making some sort of argument towards verisimilitude and historical speech lengths. Assuming that's what you're driving at.

aeorgnoieang 369 days ago [-]
I'll (mostly) grant you that the speech is "really just a disguised essay that summarizes everything you already have figured out", but I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Good rhetoric is redundant.

I also don't think it's a problem that it "does it really slowly" or that the book itself, overall, has "taken its sweet time".

Because of all of the above, I disagree that "it's a waste of the reader's time".

Unfortunately (or maybe not), it's a common enough violation of 'convention' that authors write an [Author Filibuster](https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AuthorFilibuster) or [Author Tract](https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AuthorTract).

But of course I can defend it by arguing that it's realistic in its length or tone. Real people really do give long-winded political speeches! And the story supports it too! And look, there I went, defending that part of the book.

r_smart 369 days ago [-]
>Good rhetoric is redundant.

I'm not sure you can state that as an absolute. And certainly we can agree there's degrees of redundancy, a threshold that once crossed, is belaboring the point rather than expanding on it.

>I also don't think it's a problem that it "does it really slowly" or that the book itself, overall, has "taken its sweet time".

I've got no problem with the length of the book. I found it moved at a pretty good pace for me after the first 100 pages or so.

As for the length of the speech, how long would it take to deliver those hundred or so pages as a speech? Hours probably? Can you point to an example of a political speech that has gone on that long? It's news to me, but I'm no historian.

>I disagree that "it's a waste of the reader's time".

You're welcome to obviously. Everyone is welcome to their opinion.

>And look, there I went, defending that part of the book.

Honestly, I don't find your arguments compelling though. You made a questionable claim about rhetoric, and showed that other authors have exhibited the same pathology. Coming to defend that part of the book doesn't actually prove that it's defensible, just that you felt compelled to try (as much as any of this is possibly provable).

I think the essay could have been kept to, say, 10 pages and it would have felt like the climax to the book it was intended to be. Rather than some waffling blowhard thinking anyone in the country is going to sit and listen to his 4 hour pirate broadcast.

avh02 373 days ago [-]
eh, could've condensed the whole book to about 1/3 the size. It took me about 8 months to read it cos it was so hard to keep trudging through. In hindsight I do somewhat like the gist of the book though.
thebesthacker 373 days ago [-]
kobayashi maru
draw_down 373 days ago [-]
Whatever you think of the idea being expressed (silly and not well considered IMO), this thing is outrageously poorly written. Just really awful dreck.
paulie_a 373 days ago [-]
That is an incredibly stupid test. Why would you even want to work with them? They failed my test of being a bad person to work with. It's outright pathetic and should end with "fuck off"