Archive for January, 2006

Make Meetings Useful

January 26th, 2006 No comments

I’ve commented once or twice on meetings – and I’m not alone. The folks over at Signal vs. Noise have commented yet again with tips on making them useful. I’m certainly not against meetings – they have their place. However, I’ve been in far too many meetings that were a) far too long, b) had no agenda and c) involved FAR too many people. Sometimes meetings need to involve a large cross section of the population of Cleveland…but not very often. And what’s the deal with meetings that don’t result in action items? I mean, c’mon, if we just spent the last 60 minutes discussing today’s great problem, there aught to be some action items (just not for me). Sigh. It could be worse, I could be a manager.

Categories: Off Topic, Rants Tags:

More on Googling Google

January 23rd, 2006 No comments

David Berlind captures exactly what I was trying to say

Categories: Off Topic, Rants Tags:

Tips on Speaking

January 21st, 2006 No comments

I ran into a piece on Guy Kawasaki’s blog about giving great speeches which dovetails nicely with Kathy‘s tips on speaking at tech conferences. Of course I find this type of thing particularly interesting these days as I try my best to find my way into more speaking gigs (anyone? anyone? Bueller, Bueller….) Like Guy, I used to be deathly afraid of speaking to groups and I don’t know when it happened, but at some point a bit flipped and now you can’t keep me away from an opportunity to speak. Heck, at my last job, the joke was I couldn’t think without a dry erase marker in my hand (hey, I really like white boards, OK?) and more recently, while discussing developer training one person said, in effect, that they wouldn’t be able to keep me away from the podium… Hey, it’s like a drug, give me a whiteboard and a willing audience (optional – I don’t mind if they are coerced into being there) and I’m a happy camper!

In Guy’s followup, he mentions the importance of using a conversation tone (again this is reminiscent of an entry on Creating Passionate Users!) Too often we forget this tip – I’ve been to a lot of training where it was clear the presenter was following a script and trying to be “professional.” Sigh. It’s a lot more engaging when the speaker cares! How often have you been to a talk by a “big name” who clearly is bored by the whole thing? Would you rather listen to that or someone that had an infectious passion for the topic but whose name you wouldn’t recognize? Unfortunately, (it seems) many conferences are “closed” to people that aren’t proven names, but the only way to get a name is to speak…

Categories: Off Topic, Rants Tags:

Googling Google

January 21st, 2006 2 comments

I suppose it was just a matter of time. First prosecutors used a man’s search records against him in a murder trial, now the government has requested that the major search engines turn over a random sampling of 1 million searches in an attempt to revive an Internet pornography law that was struck down by the Supreme Court as being too broad. The decision against the law points out that filters would be more effective and that websites could simply move their operations overseas to avoid the prosecution.

Not surprisingly, this story is getting A LOT of press right now (as of now, over 1000 hits on Google News) and it was a significant part of Friday’s edition of “Today’s Papers” on Slate. The story has been covered by pretty much everyone including: the San Jose Mercury News, the LA Times, the Washington Post and on ZDNet.

Personally, I find this particularly disturbing in the light of the recent domestic wiretap scandal (which appears to produce great leads: on soccer moms and pizza joints). I suspect this is a bit of a trial balloon – most won’t defend porn and once you’ve turned over search records for one reason, it makes it that much easier to ask for, say all searches on “bomb making” or “donate to al-Qaeda”. I mean, heck, apparently in a time of war, the executive branch can do anything it wants, right? I’ll probably find myself on a watch list shortly after I post this!

But at least Google is fighting back unlike the other search engines – I can’t believe they all rolled so easily (OK, so a couple claim they only gave the Justice Department some of what they want) but when you consider that they all bow down to China’s requests for dissidents’ identities we shouldn’t be too surprised. Hey, the the lure of a huge consumer market is worth “bending” principles a bit, right? Oh wait, it’s all about share holder value. Never mind. I hope that Google is successful especially in light of this quote from the LA Times article which is particularly frightening if you believe in civil liberties (my emphasis):

Under a section of the Patriot Act expanding the use of so-called national security letters, companies such as Google can be asked to turn over potentially useful data — even about people who aren’t suspected of wrongdoing — while being barred from disclosing those requests.

Wow. Have you ever searched for something that you might not want the government sifting through? How long until they start fishing through the huge email stores on Gmail and Yahoo Mail? Of course maybe they already are

Categories: Off Topic, Rants, Software Tags:

Snap Judgments – Follow Up

January 18th, 2006 1 comment

Blog time must be like, well, cat years (we don’t currently have a dog around the house…) and you’ve got to love the echo chamber that is the blogosphere (have I been Dugg yet? Or is it Digged?). Nearly 48 hours have passed since I talked about Snap Judgments and two of the blogs I track have commented on the topic (if you visit Seth’s post you’ll see I wasn’t the only one to reflect on it!). First, Christine Perfetti of UIE chimed in with this piece that quotes the same article Seth did. However, she provides a bit more depth – and I have to agree with her assessment concerning the implications of the findings. That said, since reading Don Norman’s Emotional Design, I do think aesthetics matter quite a bit.

The other interesting connection here was from Signal vs. Noise: about how little time you have to make a first impression which commented on a different article that discusses the study. So, just in case you didn’t notice, people will judge your site (or application) pretty quickly. As I mentioned in my post on Sun’s Tools – first impressions matter and are hard to overcome. Don’t blow it.

Categories: Usability Tags:

You Have 11 Minutes

January 18th, 2006 2 comments

You know, I always knew my day was pretty chopped up, but man, I never guessed it was this bad. I stumbled across “Why modern offices only let you work for 11 minutes” via this entry on Slow Leadership and I had to post this. I’ve already said that Meetings are Like Goldfish (seriously, open slots on my calendar just don’t last – a good week has me spending “only” 2-3 hours a day in meetings…) and I was happy to see the folks at Signal vs. Noise chime in with Meetings considered harmful which touches on an article titled Bored meetings. Can’t help but notice that the Minnesota reference!

Some meetings are good, but most are just a waste of time (and money). It’s a very bad sign that many of my current and former coworkers come in early, stay late, or work from home in an effort to “get things done.” Don’t managers/companies see the issue here? Paul Graham touches on this in his piece “What Business Can Learn from Open Source.” To quote:

Companies spend millions to build office buildings for a single purpose: to be a place to work. And yet people working in their own homes, which aren’t even designed to be workplaces, end up being more productive.

What does this say about most companies these days? Why do we insist on physical presence? More importantly, why do we insist on so darn many meetings?!? I’m not advocating a completely virtual world; in fact, at Code Freeze, David Hussman talked about an issue he saw firsthand with a company that had staff located in the Twin Cities and Canada. While the local staff thought the virtual standup meetings were working well, the Canadian based team was really frustrated. David found out why first hand when he visited – there was a slight delay in the audio line so the Canadian team was constantly getting “talked over.” Instituting a CB style “over” paradigm cleared that right up.

Anyway, my point is multitasking just doesn’t work – at all. I mean come on, if even The Donald believes in slowing down… I think there are a lot of people that confuse face time with productivity and that’s just not the case in most jobs anymore. When we were a widget based economy and people worked on the line, yeah, we had to “be there” to do work and more hours meant more widgets. I don’t know about you, but come 3 o’clock, my brain is pretty frazzled. And to those people like Jeffrey Immelt that think working 100 hours a week is something to be proud of…all I have to say is GET A LIFE!

OK, lost sight of my point here a bit…oh yeah, so, what are you going to do with your 11 minutes today? Think your boss would *deliberately* put you in an environment where you could get so little done? Here’s a better question, what would happen if a company actually made it possible for its employees to have, say 60 minutes of productive time a day?

Categories: Off Topic, Rants, Software Tags:

Why Accessibility Matters

January 17th, 2006 No comments

I’ve always been an advocate for making applications accessible – it just seems like the right thing to do. And frankly, it isn’t that hard especially when you’re just getting started (baking it in after the fact….well, that’s tougher). Of course if you want to sell to the government, you better know about 508 and it sure doesn’t hurt to follow the WAI as closely as you can.

As much as accessibility might be the right thing to do, many business customers refuse to pay for it much as curb cuts were few and far between until the ADA, which, for now, doesn’t cover the Internet. So, how do convince your sponsor that accessibility is more just a nice to have? Show them this piece from Seth Godin‘s blog: Knitting for the blind. Simply making their site work for blind users resulted in customers that vowed to buy exclusively from them (and not just those that were blind mind you). How much would your marketing department pay for that kind of zeal? Could your company use that kind of customer?

I think my wine monger is the best around and that’s why I recommend Brightwines to everyone that asks (and many that don’t). It’s also why 95% of my wine comes from Dave. Never underestimate the power of passionate users! Apparently, showing a little compassion can be good for business…

Categories: Usability Tags:

Sun Tools Out Ahead

January 17th, 2006 No comments

Now, I’m the first to admit that when I first encountered NetBeans in a training class a few years back I wasn’t impressed. In fact, I thought it was one of the worst tools I’d seen especially given the *extremely* detailed instructions the teacher had crafted to avoid all the issues that he (and others) had encountered leading the course. That said, my opinion has changed 180 degrees since Ryan turned me on to 4.1 (he’s a daily build kind of guy) and I’ve been an advocate since working with it while writing Foundations of Ajax.

Unfortunately, NetBeans suffers from the EJB 1.0 syndrome – negative first impressions are hard to overcome. I mean seriously, how many of you identified with Bruce Tate’s Don’t Make me Eat the Elephant Again? While EJB 3.0 might be fantastic, I wouldn’t bet the farm on its rapid adoption in the corporate world. Anyway, back to my point. Today I ran into I thought I’d never see the day on Tim Bourdreau‘s blog and Sun’s Tools are Cool? over on Roumen‘s blog both pointing to James Governor‘s recent post: Microsoft Visual Studio Live: Set To Follow Sun’s Java Studio Enterprise?

OK, so if you’ve been around me (or Ryan) for the last several months, you’ve heard us preach the goodness that is NetBeans. Seriously, give NetBeans a try, you won’t regret it…but don’t just take my word for it!

Categories: Software Tags:

Snap Judgments

January 16th, 2006 No comments

Well, I’m making up for a few quiet weeks with a smattering of quick hit posts (and, maybe one longer one…we’ll see). I ran into a post on Seth Godin‘s blog about how quickly people judge your website and I just had to post this. Seth points to a recent article: Web users judge sites in the blink of an eye on news @ Apparently, we have about 50 milliseconds to impress users. Yes, that’s 50 milliseconds…ouch.

I knew people could make some quick assessments – I mean at our core, we are just fantastic pattern matchers as Ray Kurzweil explains in this recent interview found on ACM Ubiquity (I’m going to have to, ahh, borrow The Singularity is Near from my dad…and if you really want to bend your mind a bit, check out his website). Anyway, if you’ve read the book Blink (and I plan to – thanks in no small part to Ted Neward‘s recommendation. You may want to read Eric Freeman’s review on Creating Passionate Users as well) Malcolm Gladwell explores snap judgments. But 50 milliseconds – that’ll keep people like me up at night!

Categories: Usability Tags:

History of Programming Languages

January 16th, 2006 No comments

I ran into this great write-up on the History of C languages and its cousin History of BASIC on Billy Hollis’ blog. Thanks to Ted Neward for posting this on The Blog Ride (one of my favorites!) It’s always amusing to look at where languages came from, especially in smart arse sort of way. Like spoken tongues, programming languages are heavy influenced by each other…

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