Professional Development

Back to the Future

"Have you been crammified by too much screensucking in your pilatorium lately? Are you frozoned and multifailing because your work environment’s gemmelsmerch is too high? Worry no more! Reverse that enjambleness, stop that whizilling! Acme Micro-ISV’s got the product for you!"

No, I’ve not lost my mind, nor am I channeling A Clockwork Orange, and no, this is not Word 12’s spelling checker running amok. The above is a host of new words recently minted by Dr. Edward Hallowell, a leading expert on Attention Deficit Disorder to describe the host of new information-related afflictions, maladies and crippling diseases starting to spread throughout the Information Society. Pay attention now – what you don’t know can hurt you.

Why Architecture Is a Really Long Four Letter Word

Before I start, let me just say that I've held positions as "Chief Architect" at a startup, as well as managed a group called "Systems Technology Architecture" at a large Fortune 500 company.

OK, now that we've got that out of the way, architecture is often the bane of successful software development. Focusing on creating the proper architecture for all systems can reduce the ability for a company to manuever quickly, and increase expenses to a level that only companies with huge IT budgets can afford.

Now, before the flame-throwers come out, let me explain.

My Week without Internet Access

As I mentioned in my first post, I recently spent 8 days without an Internet connection at home. Now I find that Bob Walsh has stolen a bit of my thunder with his last two posts ("80/20 Your information feeds" and "Signs of Plague"), but there's a broader implication to his last post; Where does all my time go? My week without Internet access, and the increased productivity on my mISV product forced me to, once again, revisit my old friend "the time study" (everybody groan here).

Everytime I mention this technique to people, they tell me "I don't have time to collect metrics on how I use my time". My contention is that you don't have time not to. If you spend an extra 15 minutes each day, it generally won't take long to realize an ROI (Return On Investment - Time is an asset just like money, only scarcer). If you're thinking about the full-blown type of time study pursued by large multinational corporations or the government (and those have their places as well), I'd have to agree. There are however, two methods that will serve the small organization or mISV well. The first is simply a mental exercise and the second is a quick-and-dirty paper study.

80/20 Your information feeds

A few weeks ago I promised to start exploring here the 47 non-coding things you as a programmer have to do to build a successful micro-ISV. I will get to those, but before I do, we need to do some information feed swamp-draining.

Years (many) ago when I started programming, technical information came in the form of things called technical books. If you were lucky, one or maybe two of these items would be produced, published and make it to a bookshelf at Computer Literacy Bookstore in Silicon Valley about the programming language you worked with and flailed at day in and day out.

That was then, this is now.

Now, no matter how obscure the computational subject, API usage, OS bug there's a gazillion web sites, blogs, and especially RSS feeds pumping out info 24/7 on it. Like drinking from a fire hose? Nah. Try like being at the bottom of Niagara Falls, looking up.

Signs of Plague

Have you noticed more and more online people are feeling burned out and unproductive? I am. So are Gavin Bowman and Keith Casey. So is Ryan Carson. So are a lot of people.

One case is one thing. Two are a coincidence. Four? Four hundred thousand? This is no coincidence.

I see two possibilities: brain sucking aliens are draining our minds through the Internet – the ultimate killer app. Or, something else is going on. I’m hoping its something else – better odds.

Fire your boss, fire your clients!

Keith Casey has asked me join in here, but he may live to regret his decision. That's because I going to suggest something fairly radical: It's time to fire your boss, or your clients. Instead of living in a corporate cube a self-respecting rat would'nt be caught in, or spending your life wandering from contract programming project to project, I'm going to suggest that you - yes you! - can start a top notch, world-class software company.

notes from startup school

Startup school was in session at Stanford University a little over a week ago, on Saturday, April 29th. I commuted six hours to check out the event. If you're at all interested in starting your own company or participating in a startup, you will really benefit from this sort of venue.

Call for Conferences

Yes, normally it works the other way around. A conference announces a Call for Papers/Presenters, but we're doing it the opposite way here. If you know of a conference - preferably that you're attending - that it isn't listed, please let me know.

First, we have the New York PHP Conference & Expo 2006 which is in New York, NY in mid-June. It's focused on PHP in the business community looking at both the Business Strategy and Technical Solutions. There are four of us from the DC PHP Group planning to head that direction. Registration is open, the Call for Presenters is closed.

Next, is the YAPC or "yet another Perl conference" which is in Chicago, IL in late June. The focus of this conference is Perl as a whole though they've widened their net to look at more scripting languages and concepts such as "Python for Perl Programmers". Nola brought this one to my attention and I believe she's attending. Registration is open, the Call for Presenters is closed. [Correction: Call for Presenters is closed, but the "Call for Virtual Participation" is still open. And the 15% registration discount expires on April 30th. - KC]

Next, is the Better Software Conference in Las Vegas, NV in late June (same week as YAPC above). This conference is all about software project management, process improvement, metrics, etc. I initially heard about this one because Joel Spolsky is a keynote, but don't worry... I'll be there too. Registration is open, the Call for Presenters is closed.

Finally - and near and dear to my heart - is the 2006 DC PHP Conference in Washington, DC in mid-October. This conference is focused on PHP in the Federal government with a special look at non-profits therefore we take a specific look at PHP Security, Integration in the Enterprise, and a Show & Tell. I say "we" because I'm one of the people organizing it and will definitely be attending. Registration is open, the Call for Presenters is open.

If we're missing one of your favorite conferences, please let us know. As these pass, they'll be replaced with new ones.

Software Development Book Club

We want your opinion and point of view - and I bet you want to give it to us! So, how would you like to join a book club with your on-line peers?

After last week's post where I mentioned a community workspace I set up at work, Keith and Nola started doing some brainstorming on how we could do something similar with an off-shoot of this site.

Now, we need your ideas on how to set it up and what features it should have, and your opinions on how to make it interesting enough to make you want to participate. There's a common refrain that goes, "I'd love to, but I just don't have enough time." Well, that's only half true because if you really wanted to and looked forward to it, you'd make time to do it. So what would it take to make you look forward to participating?

Last week I read a good quote somewhere about professional development that went something like, 'Where you're at professionally in 5 years will have a lot to do with the quality of books you're reading today.' (if anyone recognizes that quote, post the link to its true source!)

YAPC - NA 2006

Registration is open for the YAPC: NA 2006 being held in Chicago June 26, 27, and 28th. is proud to announce that registration is open for Yet Another Perl Conference North America (YAPC::NA) 2006. The primary conference will occur June 26th through 28th at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Illinois. The conference will feature speakers from throughout the Perl community, as well as, keynote addresses from luminaries such as Larry Wall, the creator of Perl, and guest speakers from the broader dynamic languages and open source communities. The full three-day conference costs only $100, but early registrants can take advantage of a 15% discount and attend the conference for only $85. With such a low cost, YAPC is one of the most affordable and accessible technical conferences available today.

In addition to the conference, three open courses will be offered on June 29th and 30th. These courses are taught by some of the most notable Perl instructors: brian d foy, Randal Schwartz, and Damian Conway. The courses will all run simultaneously during the two days after the conference. Conference attendance is not required when signing up for classes, but it is encouraged.