The Last Whale

I read this on December 8, in CNN as a title. Bypassed it. Then I came across it again today on NetGrrl.

It seems there is a whale whose song has been recorded for the past 12 years. The whale is a baleen whale, but the sound doesn’t match any known species.

A wandering soul, alone in the huge vast ocean. Sounding, searching for another.

If You Haven't Got a Penny

The impact of the earthquake and tsunami in Asia is overwhelming. The first numbers were in the single thousands, then yesterday, they jumped to the twenty thousand mark. As of this morning it was nearly 50,000 and as of this afternoon, it is up to more than 70,000 and growing.

If you have the money, please give:

CNN Aid Sites
NPR
NY Times Aid
Red Cross
Unicef
World Vision

If you don’t have the money, please find someplace you can offer blankets or food, your time.

If you can’t spare either, please offer your thoughts and prayers:
World Peace – Add a prayer

Encourage those you work with, your neighbors and most of all the company you work for to do the same. When we experienced 9/11, other countries were there for us, we need to do the same.

Eight Habits of Financial Consultants

After finding out that three of the most influencial, charismatic and successful people I know come from a financial consultant background, I started to think about what else they have in common.

Hard knock life – Each of them comes from a life that wasn’t filled with silver spoons in their mouths. They learned the hard way that life was filled with rough spots and how to get over hurdles.

Edginess – There is a certain forced cheerfulness about each of them. Their personalities are deep and edgy, as if there is a strong current of negativity beneath the surface. It’s as if that darkness gives their personalities its color.

Generous – They are very willing to share what’s in their goodie basket. They don’t worry about what will or won’t come out on the other side of the equation. Sometimes, their generosity and trust level gets them in trouble because they encounter people who aren’t as generous. Yet, when burned, they don’t shut off their generosity.

Genuine – Each of them shows their genuine self, no masks, no hidden agendas. They are honest to the point of offending some people who can’t handle what they hear. They don’t bother covering up what’s on their minds, they speak what they feel.

Capable – They are good at just about anything they attempt. On the other hand, failure isn’t a big issue. If they should fail, you won’t see a weeping mass at the end of the finish line. They’ll be off trying something else.

Self-aware – They know their weaknesses and strengths and are very good at using both to full advantage. I hear each of them say, I’m not very good at that, so-and-so does that.

Militant – I don’t mean their out their beating their chests and burning flags. I mean they don’t take the well traveled path. They’re willing to take chances and discover the path that they want to travel. They are the orginal drummers with a different beat.

Agile – Each of them strives to learn how to become better at whatever it is they are doing. They are constantly learning, reading, improving their processes.

Are these traits common for financial consultants or are they a product of the training they receive once they get into the trade?

Blogs Replacing Portals

John Robb quoted some numbers from an article concerning the use of Klognets vs. portals. Although his entry was back in September, I wanted to get these numbers in here for propserity and those who missed the article. Assumptions for the article were a 5,000 person organization.

Costs
Portal: $4M
K-Log: $710,000

ROI
Portal: 240%
K-Log: 1,170%

Net Benefit
Portal: $1,886 per desktop
K-Log: $1,658 per desktop

If you aren’t sure what a k-log is

Visual Basic

In a former life, I was a certified Visual Basic instructor. I’d used VB since before it was a product and through version 6 on various projects, but had put it away. Two years ago, I picked up the mobile version and coded an application for ticket surveyors using IPAQs. It has always been easy and straight forward to use, but a bit hokey.

I just started using the latest version for a new project, and I’m pleasantly surprised. Don’t get me wrong, it still has its little ‘features’ that drive me crazy. But overall, it has some great improvements and a much better method of handling classes.

I remember when I used to use it to prototype up a demo for the clients to see before I started on the ‘real’app. Python it isn’t, but it sure does get the job done quickly.

If you had any doubts…

If you had any doubts as to how quickly something can expand onto the internet via the blogosphere…take a look:

It seems that some test data snuck onto Target and Amazon’s websites and some bloggers found it. No, Target and Amazon don’t sell illegal drugs. We programmers sometimes get a little crazy with the test data.

Micropersuasion
InsideGoogle
Jeremy Zawadny

Now that we’re all a little calmer, let’s look at the reality of this situation and how a problem like this impacts companies.

Do you have someone on staff who is responsible for the overall website? Are there failsafes in place for finding problems like this? When problems like this are found, what procedures are in place to fix it?

Do you know what data lurks on your website? Bloggers do!

I remember one project where we had to recover two years worth of lost subscriber data, in some instances we had only first or last names. After two weeks of pushing in data and working 12 hour shifts, data entry folks got a little happy with filling in the newly required information. When you’re going on caffeine and fast food with limited sleep, you get pretty inventive. It took us another two weeks to get the fake data out.

Disgruntled, Underpaid and Overworked

I worked on a project a few years back where we worked 60, 70, 80 hour work weeks. Some of the developers were away from their families and frequently came into the office for the lack of something better to do. This story from a disgruntled spouse of a developer reminded me of why the software industry has run itself into the ground and dragged us software developers with it.

Software companies, I understand that you must be competitive and deadlines must be met. But you must understand the effect of overworking your staff. You may have a product at the end of your run, but the price is enormous. Huge mistakes, poor products, low morale, and lower productivity are just the tip of the iceberg. Higher health insurance premiums, sabotage, even employee deaths lurk beneath the surface. If you keep records of hours versus productivity, take a look at the real statistics. What did you really achieve, and at what cost?

Software developers, do you really have to take this? Many years ago before the boom/bust of the dotcom industry, you worked somewhere until something better came along. If you didn’t like how you were treated, there was another company willing to give you what you wanted. You feel like you have to do what you’re told, to keep the job. But maybe its time for another revolution. Maybe its up to those of us who are in the consulting industry to take on management and show them the error of their ways. But its also up to you, the employee not to take the abuse. You don’t have to stand on a table and scream to be heard. What you say has to make economic sense. What are your project statistics? Can you chart your schedule against your actual productivity rates? Can you show how much better the product could be without the overwork? Can you do something to make it a better situation without losing your job?

Is it possible that we’re actually working against eachother? Doesn’t anyone remember the Myth of the Man Month? So why are we still running our people into the ground, sending our intellectual property overseas and producing crappy products?

Happy Birthday Sam

November 18 marks my daughter Samantha’s 17th birthday. She is a magnificent daughter, despite her ability to drive me nuts. Her abilities and capabilities amaze me. She’s been blogging since she entered teenhood, long before I found out she even knew what one was. She excels at just about anything she sets her mind. Although neither of us would admit it, we are very much alike.

A Samantha story: Several years ago, I was working with a group of SGML experts . This was in 1996 and I was encouraged to participate in one of their email lists about a particular software product. One evening, I left my email program up and an email creeped in from the list from a disreputable individual who had no business posting to the list let alone posting the dirge he was posting, calling us terrible names that no under 13 year old girl should know.

Now, you have to realize that I had been lurking on this list. I wasn’t ready to post anything to it at all.

Sam spotted the email coming in and thought the person was referring to me directly. She hurled a response to this person, she slammed him for saying nasty things about her mother and told him where he could go. She calmly told me that she had taken care of him.

The next day, I slinked into the office and tried not to blush too much as all 30 of the guys came up and made comments about my posting. Most of them wanted to thank Samantha, this guy had been bothering the list for some time. He had been put in his place by a 9 year old. She can still hold her own.

Happy Birthday Sammers!