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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Zawinski's Law of Software Envelopment

Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.
Jamie Zawinski, Jargon file entry

My friend Robert and I were talking the other day about Twitter, and he related that he's been seeing people using it like they would use email. This is no surprise; every new "social technology" that comes along ends up being treated like email. Instant messaging did it, etc.

So I'm coining Young's Corrolary to Zawinski's law:

Every social networking software or web application eventually implements an email analogue, or its users will use some function of the network as email.

Of course, you could just use email, but that wouldn't be "Web 2.0".

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Specialization is for Insects

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein

As a hiring manager, I've always looked for people that tend to generalize. I'm not just looking for someone that has narrowed down on one skill set, or even focused on development work to the exclusion of other pursuits.

The people that I find most effective have other interests; they tend to be "renaissance men". Maybe they paint, or cook, or work on cars. They might play volleyball, or soccer, or softball.

Almost universally, they play an instrument.

I've seen the other side of this, after working with mainframes for several years: aging COBOL programmers that are just waiting to be put out to pasture. That isn't a dig against COBOL or COBOL programmers-- but there is a certain crowd that never updated their skills, never did anything else, and now are trapped in an evolutionary dead-end. I suspect that there are many Visual Basic programmers sitting in IT departments right now that are gearing up for this fate (and no, I'm not talking about VB.Net).

Can you talk to customers? You're more valuable than someone who can't.

Can you give a demo? Think on your feet?

Do you know how to wear appropriate attire to meet with important people? I've met many programmers over the years that never learned to how to dress "business casual", and tend to look really uncomfortable when forced to. People that can effectively "dress for success" are worth more.

If I'm hiring a java programmer, I usually want to see that you've used a scripting language, and that you have some modicum of database development and optimization. I want to know that you've done network engineering, and can explain at a high level what load balancing looks like. I want you to be able to explain sockets (this is one of those things, like pointers, that you either get, or don't get, and those who "get it" are better suited for the job).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Stem Cell Research to Heal Broken Bones

Another breakthrough in stem cell research, the adult variety. No surprise about that last bit.

The treatment uses stem cells from the bone marrow, and then they use magnets to guide them to the location of the bone break. They are expecting to be in clinical trials within 5 years.

Amazing times that we live in. Wake me up when I can inject some additional grey matter.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Why I think the copyright system is broken, an anecdote

The EFF has an excellent article about President Obama's gift to Queen Elizabeth: an iPod filled with music and video.

Article here.

If the gift were physical copies of the items (e.g. if he wanted to give her DVDs that would not play in her DVD player, as he did with Gordon Brown), then there is no question that the first sale doctrine applies. However, in this post-Napster era, copyright owners seem to have gone completely insane with attempting to impose control over digital distribution. The man on the street can tell you that this is folly, but they persist nonetheless.

Just for reference, I think that content producers should get paid for their art. That does not generate any love for the RIAA, the record companies, or the other racketeers that make up the current copyright thugs.

Image above licensed under creative commons.