James Maguire at Datamation (the oldest IT publication this side of a PDP-11 manual) pointed me to glassdoor.com and asked what I think of this new web site that gathers and reports salary information in the information technology industry. His article is a fun read: IT Salaries: Glassdoor Reveals Tech Pay Figures.
This web site — funded by Benchmark Capital and run by guys from places like Expedia who oughta know better — collects tech-industry salary information from anyone who submits it. Maguire didn’t tell me this, but I heard a rumor that every morning a dog appears at glassdoor.com with a note in its mouth, and is promptly fed, stroked, and sent back out to fetch more data…
Come on, guys. This is ridiculous. But I’ll bite. Having information about who’s earning what at which companies could be useful, as long as you don’t let it effectively cap your own worth. Of course, glassdoor.com needs to make it over one big hurdle: Is the salary information it publishes legit?
Maguire asks this one question every which way, and my hat is off to the guy for keeping a straight face. And here’s a sample of the answers he got:
“We’ve got a bunch of technical and procedural mechanisms to vet the data.” When pressed, one of the founders demurs, “We’re not really talking about the specifics that we’re using.” (Cough-cough.)
Even Ambrose Bierce, owner of a recipe once more closely guarded than the formula for Coca Cola, revealed more than that, in Oil of Dog.
How does glassdoor.com know the salary figures that folks send in aren’t total doody? Chief exec Robert Hohman says, “We apply a ton of statistics to it.”
I figure every company must guard its secrets. But glassdoor deserves a bone for for statistics doubletalk: “We apply standard statistical analysis to make sure the data looks about right.”
About right. Sheesh. (These guys started Expedia?) Gimme more. Maguire must have been scratching this dog awfully low to elicit details about the secret, scientific methodology: “The front line of defense is a human – nothing replaces a human sitting down, looking at the data.”
Yah, I learned that at Rutgers, in my first stats course. Looking at the data while sitting down improves the quality of the data. I wish I could have watched Maguire’s expression (did he arch his eyebrows?) when he probed further about the “filtering” of data that glassdoor does. “Ultimately, we review every single review by hand,” Hohman said. “So everyone passes through a human being and we check for various criteria to make sure it meets community guidelines.”
Glassdoor’s own hires must be rigorously tested for intestinal fortitude. But, what do community guidelines have to do with data quality?
With all the thousands and thousands of salary figures and company reviews streaming in, Maguire asks the glassdoor crew whether they’ve got sufficient staff. “There’s probably about a dozen of us,” Hohman explained, noting, “We’re still figuring that out.”
Must be a head-count problem, but nothing some additional funding from Benchmark won’t fix. The key to any venture group is that glassdoor has “made a commitment to data integrity.” Carry on, Men! (Women, too, but no women are mentioned. I think they could use some women.)
In the end, how do they know the salary figures people send in are accurate and truthful? “We compare companies’ data one to another to make sure the data looks right.”
Looks right. Scritch-scratch. Scritch-scratch. Maybe they should have that dog stick around to sniff out the anomalies… I was wondering how Maguire did this interview with a straight face. Then I noticed his smirking photo at the top of the article. But I stopped shaking my head after the statement, “…There’s probably about a dozen of us…”
Give James Maguire a hand for keeping his sense of humor. Don’t bother taking this salary dog for a walk. (These guys at glassdoor.com need to get an abacus before Benchmark Capital sits down and looks at the data by hand…)