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.

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!

Time to Remember the Troops

Veterans Day is a perfect time to send an email greeting to our troops serving overseas. You can do so at: Operation Dear Abby. Please send them a greeting, they have sacrificed so much for us, for our country.

Here’s a few ways you can say thank you to all the other veterans. Do you know a veteran? Anyone who served in WWI or Korea and is still alive, deserves our thanks for keeping us free. Those that served during Vietnam, deserve just as much of our thanks and respect. Many of them came home to a country they no longer were welcome in. Its not too late to say thank you.

Do you know a military member or a military wife? Many military families are barely scraping by. You can contact the Morale and Welfare office at your local base and ask what you can do to help. Some children in military families will have less than a perfect holiday. What can you do to make a difference?

When Thanksgiving and Christmas come around, do something again. I invited a couple of my son’s fellow marines home for one Thanksgiving. I’ve never been called ma’am so many times in my life. They ate everything and helped clean up afterwards.

Do you know a mom or dad whose son is in the military? Thank them too. I have never cried so much in my life as the night we said goodbye to my son on his way to the middle east. HBO has a special on tonight with people reading letters from our servicemen to their families. Make sure you have a big box of tissues handy.

The Podcasting Generation

Lots around about podcasting. BuzzMachine’s take on it caught my eye.

Everyday, you are bombarded with information from multiple sources. Its pushed on your from all sides. Television, internet, radio, magazines, newspapers, all available 24/7 to overwhelm you. At the same time, we have lots of free time on our hands as we busily hop around doing the mundane tasks we must do. As we wait in line at the bank or the grocery store, we’re forced to listen to their muzak. As we hop in our cars on the way to work, we have two choices, radio or our own CDs. Podcasting brings yet another source of overwhelm. There is already so much content available that no one would be able to listen to it all.

Yet, we are drawn to podcasting because it gives us more choices then we’ve ever had before. We’ve been raised on overwhelm. Some of us seek it out. We need the information, now, now, now.

Think about newsreaders, we needed them desperately, people reading 100, 200, 300 blogs per day, trudging through link after link. Using a newsreader made it at least feasible to read that much information quickly. And so what did most of turn around and do with them? We subscribed to more feeds.

I’ve been listening to podcasts for a few weeks now. The big and the small, sometimes the obscure. But I find it overwhelming at times. I can’t listen to it too much, I need to wring out my brain. And still, there are shows I will never have the time to get to. I use iPodder Lemon for Windows to get my feeds and download the content.

For me, what’s missing in iPodder and in any newsreader is the ability to have them find out what I want to listen to. Whether it be by keywords or learning by looking at what I download and read. Sort of like Amazon’s ‘if you enjoyed this, you’ll also enjoy’. Food for thought. Let me know what you think.

IPodder 1.1

I’ve been playing in iPod land with podcasting. Lots of brave souls out there broadcasting anything you can think of. Downloaded the new version (1.1) of iPodder today. Has a great improvement on the way you can add feeds from the directory at iPodder.org.

Played with recording a video using the methods that are used by Instant Video (similar to Instant Audio). I liked the white background, it adds something. You can take a peek. Yes, the webcam is a bit grainy. I’m sitting in front of a whiteboard, with a light aimed at it and a flashlight for eliminating shadows. It works, except for the tiny black spot in upper left. Now I’ve got a working prototype for a flash player that will load audio or video and play either one off the page.

Be nice, its just playing at this stage.