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Archive for February, 2007

Managing a Dead Horse

February 27th, 2007 No comments

I’m pretty sure that Scott Adams has some kind of super sniffer that gives him direct access to all emails, IMs, or search records of anyone in software or engineering. I say that partially because last Friday‘s Dilbert hit pretty close to home – you see a couple of months back my buddy Charles IMed me this link to a bunch of jokes and I about fell off my chair laughing at the bit about riding a dead horse (scroll down – it’s there, trust me). I’m sure we’ve all experienced a few of those over the years… Coincidence? I think not!

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Bits and Pieces

February 25th, 2007 No comments

As I mentioned yesterday, it’s time to clean out the old inbox of all the bits and pieces that have been stacking up. These aren’t in any particular order and they’d all justify a full write-up but I’d rather get them out there than have them stagnate in the email bucket. Enjoy!

First off, I’m on a bit of a Seth Godin kick. Here is a short riff titled What smart bosses know about people who read blogs. Maybe I’m wrong for being somewhat amazed at how many folks in this industry don’t read blogs – but at least I’m not alone. Eric Sink covers this point in his post Baptists and Boundaries where he asserts (correctly) that most software engineers don’t read blogs. Ask yourself: what kind of people do you want on your staff? Those that, when the day is done, got home and watch the latest in reality television or those that are passionate enough to crack a book? Sadly, most managers want Sheepwalkers.

Some of this, I suspect, is a fear of failure and it’s clear that most people would rather fail conservatively than succeed in a radical manner (I know I’m quoting someone but I can’t seem to find the attribution, shout if you know but for now, take a look at this excerpt from Alistair Cockburn). Of course what it means to fail is a very fluid concept that Seth touches on in The Tyranny of Opportunity Cost.

Let’s get back to that passion bit. Kathy Sierra has a great post entitled Don’t ask employees to be passionate about the company! Amen. I know why C-level types are such cheerleaders but I’m always surprised when people wonder why the rank and file aren’t.

So these last two pieces aren’t related at all to the previous ones (hey, this is a tab clearing exercise!) but they’re still very interesting. James Duncan Davidson comments on the lack of Java on the iPhone but what really caught my attention was this quote:

For me, having Java was really important. But after I left Sun and talked to more end-users, I realized that as an end-user, the technology used to create something is not important. The important part is the result.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Ryan sent me this link to a jQuery plugin for Taconite. Very cool stuff!

Last but certainly not least, Tim Bray has a very interesting post titled Comparing Frameworks. The moral of the story – you can’t really say Java is “better” than Rails without defining what you mean by better. What do you care about more? Notice where he ranks the options in regards to developer speed and maintainability. Last I checked, most of our projects spend the *vast* majority of their life in maintenance mode and I don’t think I know too many customers that want their projects later than sooner. Anyway, good read.

Whew, that helps ;) Looks like most people here in the big Minnie will be spending significant portions of today just digging out from the snow we got/are still getting. Oh well, this *is* Minnesota after all. I hope you’re reading this somewhere warm and dry!

Categories: Agile, Development, Off Topic, Software Tags:

Links for Charles

February 24th, 2007 2 comments

The other day I gave a presentation with a set of links in it and when I mentioned that to my friend Charles (no, not that one) he said post them to the blog. So, let it never be said I don’t listen to my constituents!

First and foremost is an interview with Mary and Tom Poppendieck over on InfoQ. By the way, *great* content Floyd – if you haven’t been keeping track of the latest offering from Mr. Marinescu, you really should. I also posted a couple of articles on multitasking, something that I’ve commented on in Quick is Slow and You Have 11 Minutes. I pointed to two posts from Kathy Sierra: Your brain on multitasking and Multitasking makes us stupid? Along the same vein is an oldie but goodie from Joel on Software: Human Task Switches Considered Harmful. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – multitasking is a myth. People seem to harbor this insane notion that they can juggle half a dozen high priority tasks and do justice to them all…sorry, it’s not possible. But continue to believe that. Really.

Anyway, from the look of my inbox I’m going to have to do a deck clearer post…there’s been a lot of great articles out there that I’ve been meaning to comment on but have lacked sufficient time (something that I’ll have in even shorter supply in coming weeks!) If you’re getting the snow we are here, I hope you don’t have to drive anywhere this weekend…

Categories: Agile, Development, Off Topic, Software Tags:

Air Traffic

February 15th, 2007 No comments

I’m constantly amazed at what creative people like Aaron Koblin are capable of doing; in this video, air traffic data is transformed into hypnotic art. Via collision detection.

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How do you Like Your JavaScript?

February 12th, 2007 3 comments

Old Ajax hand Brent Ashley has broken what I can only hope was a self imposed silence today with Javascript – the Web 2.0 developer’s Babelfish. I must say I agree with Brent’s “unformed” idea: some of today’s popular JavaScript libraries try to make JS “feel” more like a different language. I make this point when I talk about Ajax or when people quiz me about which library is perfect for them – if Ruby makes your skin crawl, chances are you won’t like Prototype and many of the Java guys I know adore GWT since it allows them to stay in their comfort zone.

As much as I agree with his post, never forget that JavaScript is JavaScript – a perfectly fine language thank you very much. It’s natural to make analogies but those can be dangerous ;)

Categories: Ajax Tags:

Software is like…

February 12th, 2007 No comments

Since I practically goaded Glenn Vanderburg into the conversation, I just have to point to a very insightful post he wrote entitled Bridges and Software. In general I have a hard time wtih most of the comparisons of software – push comes to shove, software is like, well, software. It isn’t a pure construction process but then little of what we create would be classified as art. That said, I tend to think ours is a craft more closely aligned with the later than the former.

Anyway, I was particularly struck by the fact that Robert Maillart’s bridges were originally derided while the “state of the art” produced one of the most widely known engineering failures. I can’t help but think – what “truth” do we hold so dear today that will soon be considered folly (I’m hoping useless meetings and process definition teams)? What object or scorn today shall soon be seen as state of the art (please let it be offices with flat panel monitors and comfortable chairs). Great post Glenn!

Categories: Development, Rants, Software Tags:

We are the Machine

February 12th, 2007 No comments

For a really interesting look at what Web 2.0 means, check out this amazing video. If this piece is representative, I bet Michael Wesch‘s classes are well attended. I originally saw this on The Long Tail

Categories: Off Topic Tags:

Gateway JUG – Slides

February 11th, 2007 No comments

As promised, here are my slides from last week’s Gateway JUG talk (apologies for taking so long to get these up). I had a lot of fun (well, except for the trip to the airport) and I want to thank NFJS for sponsoring my trip! Please note, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License: Foundations of Ajax.

Creative Commons License

Categories: Ajax, Talks Tags:

Random Travel Notes

February 8th, 2007 No comments

I’ve already described my harrowing mad dash to the airport but there were a couple of other random travel notes I just had to throw out there. First of all, I’ve traveled on some smallish planes this year but Tuesday was the first time I’ve ever heard a stewardess utter these very comforting words “Someone from the first two rows needs to move to the back of the plane to balance out the weight.” Huh. So, this aircraft is so sensitive that we need to move a couple of hundred pounds 30 feet. Well, that makes me feel *very* secure. I know this is pretty standard but still, gives a guy pause…

As you no doubt know by now, it was snowing on Tuesday which means deicing. Frankly, I wasn’t that concerned – it wasn’t that snowy (though it was plenty cold) but still, flying in less than ideal conditions makes you think. Anyway, the first officer gave us the spiel about how we’d be taxiing to the deicing station where we’d stop and then we’d be off. After getting a bath in propylene glycol, we were ready to roll…well, not quite. At one point my seat mate leaned over and quipped “I didn’t realize we were driving to St. Louis.” I’m sure it wasn’t that far but it really did seem like we’d be “driving” for quite some time and I was starting to wonder what the time limit was on that deicing fluid…

Speaking of which, the spare pilot (seriously, what *is* their role? Don’t get me wrong…redundancy in pilots is a good thing…) makes a comment along the lines of “we are really hoping to get in the air shortly or else we’ll have to return to be deiced.” Huh. Not that I really wanted to return to the terminal area but I couldn’t help but wonder – should we really be taking off with the deicing fluid at the end of it’s effective life span? Obviously, it wasn’t a problem but still…

One last little travel note – why is it, when you have *plenty* of time to get to your gate, it’s about 50 feet from the security checkpoint but when you’re rushed, it’s on the other end of the world? Leaving St. Louis, I alloted ample time (hey, I learned my lesson…) and while I didn’t expect any issues getting through security, of course my gate was literally down the hall from where I went through the gauntlet that protects the world from dangerous shampoo. Oh well, who ever said this speaking gig wasn’t glamorous huh?

Categories: Off Topic, Rants, Talks, Travel Tags:

Death by PowerPoint

February 8th, 2007 4 comments

A while back, the Fluff Talker list had a bit of a debate over the merits of PowerPoint vs. Apple’s Keynote. Since I’ve move to the Mac, I’ve done all my presenting in Keynote and frankly I haven’t looked back; at first it was a bit of an adjustment but all in all, I liked it quite a bit. I’ve seen a lot of great decks in Keynote including the drop dead gorgeous work seen in an Inconvenient Truth. When I complimented Bill Scott about his presentation at AE, he humbly gave Keynote the credit (seriously, Bill is something else – if you have a chance to see him live, do not hesitate.)

Anyway, I’ve spent a lot of time in Keynote and I’ve been trying to mimic the “Lessig method” of presenting (free culture is a great example, but you owe it to yourself to watch Dick Hardt’s OSCON 2005 Keynote). I’ve seen *way* too many bullet point infested decks (it should be illegal to indent more than once) and I’ve been doing my part to stem the tide. At the day job, I’ve been pounding out a deep dive on TDD and since work is all about Windows, I find myself again in PowerPoint. I have to admit, I really wish I wasn’t. Trying to bend PPT to my will is proving difficult though I think much of the blame belongs to our corporate template – one that practically forces bullet point upon bullet point. Much as I want to blame crappy slideware on the presenters, maybe we need to “reeducate” those wonderful people that piece together lackluster themes. Or at least those swell souls that dictate all presentations shall be in said stifling framework.

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