That’s A Bunch Of Errors

Apparently, Microsoft is getting better in predicting what’s going to happen when they upgrade their software (click on the picture to the left and read the yellow box). They’ve gotten so good that they can say users may experience 500 errors. Not some errors or a plethora of errors but 500 errors. Remind me not to use MSDN from 3 to 4 PT today. I’m not sure I can handle 500 errors.

Thoughts on the Internet

Lofty titles aside (really, I sometimes just make up titles to posts because I feel like my site design looks terrible without one. I digress), I do have a not that impressive thought on what surfing of the Internet does to our brain. I’m currently reading The Best And The Brightest and while I don’t currently have comments about that book specifically (though I hope to soon, it’s a fascinating trip through the history and the events leading up to our involvement in Vietnam), I do have a more abstract comment on what happens when you read something that takes intellectual power to comprehend and follow it immediately with “The Internet”.

Specifically, you forget everything you just read. More and more, I’m beginning to think the shit I read on the Internet makes me stupid, not because it’s inherently stupid in content (though much of it is) but because it saps attention in a way that makes it impossible to retain the previously read material. This isn’t particularly groundbreaking but it’s eye-opening when you are deep into a book that has about as many characters in it as War and Peace and you can’t remember any of what you just read once you check your RSS aggregator.

I’m starting to seriously consider limiting what I read on the Internet and how I use it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great place, lots of good porn out there and I certainly have learned more from Wikipedia than I could ever have imagined. But still, the disgusting mental sickness I feel after doing nothing but surfing the web all day is starting to open my eyes to everything that’s wrong with the constant jangly thing dangled before my eyes on the web.

As usual, no amazing conclusions here. But I’m really think I’m getting dumber each day I fire up Firefox.

Apropos of nothing, if you want to read a phenomenal book about the political history that led us into Vietnam, read The Best And The Brightest. It’s really that good. If you want a history of just the Vietnam war and how our leaders let us down, check out A Bright Shining Lie. I highly recommend both.

Remote Control Mail

From the “I can’t believe this is a business but I wish I would have thought of it” department, we have Earth Class Mail. For a monthly charge, you get a PO Box that Earth Class Mail monitors. They scan in everything that you get which you can then view. You can choose to have them open it and scan in the contents, shred/recycle it or forward it to you unopened.

It would almost be worth it to save the time it takes me to open mail, separate out the shredable parts, the recyclable parts and the trash parts. Not to mention, we have 20 minutes of shredding waiting to happen about once a week. Pretty interesting concept.

Attachments

I’m a firm believer in the fact that comments on web sites typically drag the conversation down to the lowest common denominator but occasionally, you find a comment that is insightful.  I found one of those on reddit the other day and I thought it was worth mentioning:  “People who carry cellphones remind me of dogs who proudly carry their leash around in their mouths.”

Now being both a cellphone carrier and a dog-owner, this strikes me on both sides but there is a certain amount of truth to the matter when you think how proud a dog is when he gets to put his leash in his mouth, never understanding the deeper significance that he is showing off his submission and lack of control.  To a large degree (and mostly I’m talking about those idiots with the ear dongle cellphones), people with cell phones are just like that, largely missing out on the greater irony of being proud of something that is controlling their lives.  Like many other things, this makes me want to throw my cell phone in the trash.  Either that or give it to the dog.

Chances Are It’s You That’s Stupid

In my experience in the software development world, people tend to have one of the following three reactions to a new technology or process:

  1. This is so stupid.
  2. I can’t do this, please do it for me.
  3. I don’t understand, can you help?

You can learn a great deal about a team member or employee just based on this reaction alone.  The first person expects all problems to exist external to themselves.  If a co-worker immediately reacts to a new tool with “This is stupid”, I know I don’t want to have them on my team.  These types of people don’t consider the why’s of a decision, only the outcomes.  Their immediate reaction is always one of blame and not self-inspection.  They are a contagion to a team that requires flexibility because they embody inflexibility.  Helping these people is almost always an exercise in futility because to them, it’s always something (or someone) else’s fault.

The second group are the give-uppers.  They may toy with it for a bit but only superficially before running to the expert in the hope he will save them from expanding their boundaries.  These people are nearly as detrimental to the team’s morale but they are highly detrimental to the team’s productivity.  They are net negative for teams that require high efficiency to operate effectively.

The last group are the ones you want to have around.  When they don’t understand, chances are they’ve struggled with it for quite awhile and are now looking for some insight as to why things are done a certain way.  They typically don’t want the problem solved for them but they aren’t afraid to ask for a little help.  They realize that there’s probably a reason for everything but they just don’t know it yet.

I get frustrated a lot when dealing with something new but I try to always remind myself to step back and think for a second regarding the problem.  Chances are, I’m missing the big picture or not looking close enough internally before rushing out to blame the technology or process.   Just because something doesn’t do what you expect it to doesn’t make it stupid.

Why Less is More

The more I work in IT, the more I realize how insightful the Pareto principle really is.  While it doesn’t apply directly to IT, it certainly rears its ugly head here a lot.  For example, to this day, years after a certain developer left who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty, we have code in production that consistently contains bugs even though that very same code has contributed many bugs in the past.  This fellow didn’t contribute anywhere near 20% of the code but his code helps us know where to look for a good chunk of the 80% of the bugs.

On the flip side, I think it’s apparent that in almost any field of work that doesn’t require a 10 year degree or that you don’t get paid $7 million a year to do, 20% of the people do somewhere close to 80% of the work.  Thinking statistically, this probably has something to do with approximately 16% of the people being one or more standard deviations above the mean.  There are lots of leeches and bloodsuckers who float along on the tails of people who actually do work.  Strangely, the more hierarchical a company is, the more leeches there are around.  I think it’s because the hierarchy protects them from being found out.

So how do you either find a job where everyone is in that 20% or start a company and hire those people?  If it’s the former, look for a flat organizational structure, one where the concept “team” isn’t a dirty word.  If it’s the latter, and you have an answer, I’d love to hear about it.  In reality, I know how to find and hire them, I just have to find the idea for the company first.  So if you have an answer for that, drop me a line.  🙂

God’s Prayer Response Technology

I’ve always wondered how God decided to answer prayers and what prayers had precedence over others.  I think I’ve finally figured it out.  God uses Microsoft Message Queuing for his prayer aggregation and his queue server went down last year, at least the queue server that took in prayers for rain in the DFW area.  God’s queue server came back up around May 15th and instead of having some nice error checking in there to see if the timeout has been exceeded, God (or his proxies, proxies tend to be dumb enough to do such things) is answering all the “Please let it rain in DFW” prayers from last year as the queue server catches up.

Nothing else can explain the fact that we’ve been getting rain every day for the past 3 weeks during a time period when we should be praying for rain.  God could really use a decent QA team and a bug tracking application.  Let this be a lesson to you: always set an explicit timeout on your queue messages prayers just in case the default is Timeout.Infinite.  God works in mysterious ways.

Getting Noticed Means Getting Hired

That’s the gist of this post and it certainly is true in the techie universe I live in. One of the fastest ways to get noticed is to have a decent resume. I read my fair share of resumes as a tech lead at work and let me tell you, most of them suck balls. The ones that don’t suck balls are at best average and not once in my 7 years with my company have I ever seen a resume that made me think the person writing it was willing to take a chance.

My resume (not posting it but if you’re interested, I’ll show it to you) isn’t a thing of great beauty but it’s got a couple of things going for it. First, it’s short. Brutally short. I saw a resume at work 2 weeks ago that was 9 printed pages long. That’s ridiculous. On top of that, it makes me think you’re a dolt or a show-off. Either way, getting my vote is an uphill battle.  Your resume should be 2 pages max.  If I want to know more about your work history beyond two pages, trust me, I’ll ask.

Second, I take chances with my resume. I want someone to read it and have a reaction. I’d prefer it to be a “Holy crap, get this guy on the phone” reaction but I’m ok with “What a maroon” too. Either way, we’re getting somewhere. If I’m looking for a job, I’m looking for one that’s better than the one I’ve got. If I wanted a job just like the one I have, I’d just keep the one I have. Take a damn chance. If your objective has one single thing about specific technical details, you’ve screwed up. Example from mine: I want to read the daily Dilbert and not once identify my own coworkers in the strip. As I said, take a damn chance.

Lastly, it’s well-written. I had at least 3 people proof it including at least one (my lovely wife) who doesn’t have the foggiest clue what SOAP or XML or SOA stands for but very definitely knows whether I should use effect or affect. If English ain’t your first language, find someone for whom it is (unless you’re trying to get hired in India) and have them proof it. Twice. Don’t underestimate the affect effect of a well-written resume.

If you’re looking for a job in a cubicle farm, forget everything I’ve said. If not, take it to heart. Oh, and Be Smart and Get Things Done. That helps too.