Monthly Archives: August 2005

Master the art of asking

Master the art of asking
If you want to be an
effective communicator, you need more than just communication skills:
you need to have something meaningful to say. You can start by
1. Collecting good information, and

2. Taking the extra time and energy to make it relevant to others.

You
can do both at once by learning to ask good questions. The benefit of
collecting information this way is that you automatically get deeper
context than you would ever get from other kinds of research; you learn
what people really care about.   [Communication Nation]

App-less Web Apps

App-less Web Apps.

This is really cool. 37Signals has a couple neat posts which really struck me this morning. The first one I missed a while ago, App-less web apps and this morning’s ponderings about URLs vs. usernames and passwords.
The reason is that I’ve been “working” (i.e. thinking a lot about and
doing nothing to actually accomplish) on a similar app. I wrote about
it here
where I was complaining about having to develop the same ol’
username/password infrastructure. The idea of an app-less web app
appeals to me greatly, not from a laziness standpoint, but because we
*all* have enough usernames and passwords. We really don’t need another.

Despite being a little annoyed at the 37Signals guys for hyping Ruby on
Rails too much and giving them crap about mobility, I actually like
their blog and their work quite a bit. Especially since they have a
tendency to concentrate on simplicity, and aren’t afraid to think
outside the norms to get there. Simplicity is hard work. It’s easy to
just slap a complex CRUD-like user interface on top of any database.
It’s hard to think about how users would actually want to work and make
your app respond that way instead.

I have a feeling that Writeboard
is very similar to what I was planning. Hmm… Since I haven’t written a
single line of code, hopefully it’s exactly what I was thinking, and I
can just use that and save myself the effort.   [Russell Beattie Notebook]

Don't hire on the cheap

Don't hire on the cheap.

I’ve
recently learned my lesson about hiring workers on the cheap. A friend
of mine recommended I hire this guy and his crew to handle some
painting and wood stripping/refinishing. The quote came in really low
and the time frame wasn’t realistic. Against my best judgement, I went
for it anyway and it’s been nothing but a disaster. A project that was
quoted to take 3 days is already going on 10 and there’s no end in
sight. It’s one empty promise after another. The guy I hired hasn’t
even been to the job site in about 6 days to check on the work being
done by his crew, yet he speaks of it as if he’s in control of the
situation. And now he’s feeding my friend lies that make it look like I’m the unreasonable one. Sigh…

Lesson learned. Next time I’ll check out Angie’s List first and only hire professionals with histories and credentials.  [Signal vs. Noise]

The Pacific Institute

The Pacific Institute.

Going through my many pages of notes, here are some highlights:

– Goals cause us to change what we see, who we talk to, and where we
go for information. State (or better yet, write) a goal, and then walk
into a bookstore, surf the net, or talk to a stranger in line for
coffee…chances are, you'll see something new, that takes you closer
to that outcome.

– We ALL have blind spots. There are things we look at, directly,
but miss information that was “right there.” How many times has this
happened in a conversation, or while reviewing written materials?

– New ideas require at least one of three things: (1) A problem, (2)
A conflict, (3) A goal. Walking away from the seminar, I realized that
most of the time I create the most ideas under pressure – that is, when
there is a problem or a conflict. So, one of the take-aways from the
seminar is: Set goals and let the Reticular Activating System

the system of cells of the reticular formation of
the medulla oblongata that receive collaterals from the ascending
sensory pathways and project to higher centers; they control the
overall degree of central nervous system activity, including
wakefulness, attentiveness, and sleep; abbreviated RAS.

take over…you'll see things you've never seen before, hear things you've never heard before, get ideas you'll be glad you had!

There is more (so much more) to this 3-day seminar, but those are three things that stand out to me on this Tuesday morning…

We get (only) what we are looking for. If this is true, and this IS the big “if,” what should we do if we want something different? The answer, according to Lou: Change our focus, look for what we want, be open to discovering new things that work.  [Jason Womack]

The leap seconds are coming, the leap seconds are coming

The leap seconds are coming, the leap seconds are coming.

Oh, great–first the government mucks with DST, and now leap seconds are back for the first time in 7 years. I was starting to think that we were done with them for good.

My timezone is going to have an extra second added at 3:59:60 PM on
December 31st, 2005. Fun; I wonder how many of the devices that I deal
with will do the right thing with the extra second. Odds are most of
them will just end up an extra second off. I assume that NTP
has a way of dealing with this, although it might just be outside of
the protocol’s scope–leap seconds really just change the
seconds-since-some-epoch to human-visible-date mapping. (Update: it’s complicated)

Since leap seconds aren’t new, and I don’t really care about
sub-second timing precision on any of my devices, I doubt I’ll even
notice the change, although undoubtedly there are devices on the market
that will have problems; I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a cheap GPS
receiver somewhere with leap seconds issues.

This reminds me of two of the pedantic sysadmin interview questions
that I’ve never really had the guts to ask a real candidate–“exactly
how many hours are in a day?” and “how many seconds are there in a
minute?” Strictly speaking, the answers are “23, 24, or 25, depending
on DST transitions” and “59, 60, or 61, depending on leap seconds.” The
23/24/25 thing actually bites new sysadmins–never schedule something
that needs to happen exactly once per week to happen between 2:00 and
3:00 local time on a Sunday morning, because once per year it won’t
happen at all, and another time it’ll happen twice.  [*scottstuff*]

Open New Windows for PDF and other Non-Web Documents

Useit.Com: Open New Windows for PDF and other Non-Web Documents.
All these guidelines stem from the same underlying phenomenon: the
non-Web documents are native PC formats. These formats have their own
applications, each of which gives users a set of commands and
navigation options that are completely different than the ones for
browsing websites. [Tomalak's Realm]