Saturday, April 26

Twitter: the following:follower ratio

In recent weeks Twitter has been plagued by follow-spam from thousands of ignorant, immature people blindly following Scoble's prescription for Twitter "success." The ethos was entirely quantity over quality, and quite impersonal -- sure doesn't sound particularly community- nor conversation- -oriented now, does it?

I follow about 250 people more than follow me. I also follow far too many people to be "intimate" with many of them through Twitter. But in my book, that's FINE -- Twitter is transient. It's a firehose -- embrace it, but don't drown yourself!

I could care less how many people you follow, how many people follow you, if you're INTERESTING. If you're engaging in CONVERSATION, if you're sharing thoughts and ideas, I say RIGHT ON.

If you're one of these mass-adding Twammers (Twitter-spammers) then I say: die in a fire. Slowly. Perhaps roasted on a spit.

Follow people because you find them interesting, not because you're trying to play the numbers game. And, don't use Twitter as your personal ego-horse or mouthpiece! Such use is pretty obvious, and not desirable in the LEAST.

Personally I think the two best ways to find new people to "follow" are 1) eavesdropping and 2) outside sources. If you see someone having an interesting conversation with someone you already follow, FOLLOW THE NEW PERSON. Also, if you have outside contact with someone -- whether personally, or through their blog or another social network, then again, by all means FOLLOW THIS PERSON.


Scoble throws in the towel

AKA "Ration and reason win again."

The Albany Tech Market - Part I

Per Michael's (@catalyst? not sure which Michael) request, here's my take on the tech job scene in the Capital District.

Permit me some background. I grew up 45 minutes north of here, in a town called Queensbury, literally living on the edge of the Adirondack Park.

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I was a geek in a decidedly non-technical area. Around 7th or 8th grade, I started getting ideas about software consulting. Around the age of 15 or 16, in 1994/1995, I'd picked up enough JavaScript, HTML and Photoshop that I tried my hand at web freelancing. I did about a half dozen simple sites, encountered client payment issues, had business disputes with my partner -- my brother -- froze some accounts, abandoned the sole proprietorship, and moved to Rochester for college.

The next nine years I was in Rochester. By the end of my sophomore year I was no longer focused on RIT, but working in the field. I'd returned one summer to work a co-op position with Adirondack Technologies, Inc. -- one of the first large-ish web design and hosting firms in the area. By the end of that summer (1998? 1999?), I'd secured my first fulltime job offer, with Meridian Technology Group, back in Rochester as an ASP "web engineer".

From there, at the age of 19, with no degree, I hopped to a Xerox contract, to an IBM contract, to what turned into a year-long 1099 contract with a startup, subcontracted to Global Crossing. Got laid off a month after 9/11, brand new car to pay for, not-cheap apartment rent, etc. etc., and started freelancing again. After six months I took an underpaid, but fulltime w/ benefits, job with one of my clients, Northern Air Technologies.

Six months later I landed a job as "associate webmaster"/technical lead with the Democrat & Chronicle -- one of the earliest non-NYC/LA/DC newspapers with a website, and someplace I'd had my eye on for years. Now, I wasn't hunting at the time, having only been with Northern Air as a direct employee for six months, but a resume I had shotgunned out some time in the distant past had, in fact, been retained -- maybe those "we'll keep you on file, thanks for applying" rejection letters AREN'T all outright lies. After we fired the douchebag, scotched-up, smoked-up webmaster, all such duties fell to me.

I spent a little over three years at the D&C, doing small bits of freelance here and there along the way. Eventually I got fed up with the "the internet is a necessary evil" and "let's cut payroll and use corporate boilerplate rather than write our own code" attitudes that pervaded that institution. A new director came in, with no respect for, nor apparent desire to make use of, my skills. I ended up walking out, after losing my office, after losing the interesting work I used to do there -- I used to be the guy writing the kick-ass, avant garde, bleeding edge code that the rest of the corp used as boilerplate -- after losing any respect I had for the place or a good majority of the people in it. (ID, Jamie, Mike, Rich E, Julie, Nick, Stacia, Ian, Corinne, Karl, Anne, nothing but respect for YOU all, but the rest can die in a fire, especially the cold-fish, man-boy director who can't shut up about his allegedly brilliant daughter. Get over it! Sorry buddy, but those same irrelevant IQ tests I took too, and I scored higher. Too bad I never had the right moment to shatter your beliefs with that fact.) One thing the experience DID afford me was the opportunity to start converting some ASP code into ASP.NET/VB.NET.

I did my first .NET (C#) contract at that time, RnD'g and prototyping a cell-based, IP-centric, no-wires-required, web-viewable "security camera". A month or so into that consulting job, I took my second contract with Xerox. I LOVED it there -- I learned a ton about .NET, got exposed to Scrum, got exposure to all the latest and greatest tech, we had great hardware, all the stuff that comes of working in the software arm of Xerox Global Services. Unfortunately I'd totally goofed on negotiating my rate, and wasn't entirely happy with the situation.

Over the years, I'd occasionally looked for jobs in Albany, eager to return to someplace closer to family. My brother had recently taken a new job, and I felt motivated to start looking at Albany again myself. A day or two after I started looking, I got an inquiry for a job with a place that grows animals for testing purposes. EPIC FAIL -- and I told the recruiter exactly that.

Fortunately within 24 hours, he put something else in front of me -- an opportunity with Davis Vision, Inc. They were looking to migrate from .NET 1.1 to 2.0, they have an enterprise remoting services architecture, and, as I was to learn, they have some truly excellent, wonderful, friendly, caring people in their employ. The recruiter asked if I could do an interview later that week, and it just so happened I was going to be in the area for my mom's birthday and mom and dad's anniversary. How could I say no?

The interview went pretty awesomely. I'd say I interviewed them more than they interviewed me -- and I can't stress enough, if you're going to find a position that is truly right for you, YOU must interview the company as much as they interview you, if not more. Besides which, with you doing the "interviewing," I think it's a lot easier for your personality and skills to come through. It cuts through a lot of the rigmarole and bs.

Davis was kind enough to hold the position for me through September, when the first release of the project I was on at Xerox was due. I returned to the area in September 2006, almost exactly 9 years to the day that I'd left for Rochester.

/background. I appreciate your patience! To be continued ...

Wednesday, April 23

Penny Arcade nails Twitter in one

Yes, we all know, I ♥ Twitter ... but this is painfully truthy, and hilarious at the same time:

Thursday, April 17

Believe me, I'm no Miguel de Icaza

Nor Jeff Atwood, nor Scott Hanselman, nor any of these influential, awesome people ... but I'm certainly honored to be mentioned on this list of rockstar .NET people who also use Twitter.

Apologies for comment moderation

I turned comment moderation back on today -- my apologies, I despise it. Moderated comments on blogs only increase the distance between you and me.

Unfortunately someone decided to linkspam/googlebomb via my comments, and as much fun as it was cleaning that up at 5am, I don't have time for it right now.

StopTwitterSpam, and my 'argument' with Scoble

This morning I learned of a kick-ass new anti-Twitter spam ("Twam" -- thanks Mark Delfs!) site this morning.

When I mentioned it on Twitter, and mentioned my stand on Scoble's mass-adding formula -- aka, a formula for Twam -- Robert Scoble engaged me in a bit of a heated discussion.

Stop Twitter Spam picked it up and reproduced a good chunk of it (I may tweetscan later to rebuild it in its entirety).

Apparently because Scoble and I have differing opinions, I simply have not thought about the topic enough. According to Scoble. Who, after being unable to "win" this "argument" he started, "ends the discussion" and stomps off like a toddler who got told no cookie.

Robert Scoble == Amanda Chapel? (Strumpette) They both seem to thrive on ad hominem "conversations" that get all twisted when their repeated shouting of their opinions on top of someone else's fails to "win" the "argument" or debate they've engaged in.

Tuesday, April 15

My new favorite coffee dealer

After a number of bad customer service experiences with the hippie-run Dean's Beans, I may quite possibly my new favorite coffee bean dealer. Errr, supplier. Errrr, place I order beans from:

Higher Ground Roasters - Organic Fair Trade Coffee- Great Coffee for Good Causes

100% organic, free trade, shade grown (a lot of people have recommended Peet's to me, but I have a very hard time purchasing beans that aren't o/ft/sg) and DARN tasty.

The one downside I'd have to mention -- their shipping process doesn't seem to be super quick. We'll see what happens the next time I order.

Speaking of coffee, time to make some!

Lesson Learned from Contracting, Revisited - SQL Server Central

Lesson Learned from Contracting, Revisited - SQL Server Central (requires free registration, sorry about the annoyance)

This is an excellent article looking at contracting/consulting from an experienced consultant's perspective -- without being anti-business in favor of being pro-consulting.

Contract consultants, a role I've occupied fulltime many times in the past, fill a need. Sometimes, they seem like a quick solution to a difficult problem. Hiring/managing consultants is most certainly not the same art as managing internal employees.

I've known complete dweeb consultants, charging ridiculous rates when they couldn't figure out VB6 dropdowns on their own. On the other hand, I've known consultants that really twinked my noggin, gave me a new perspective on things. Unfortunately, we're not all in the latter category, and far too many businesses have had bad experiences with the former.

State of the tech market

The housing bubble has popped. Oil's at $111.89. Prices at the pump are bumping up against, or setting new, all-time highs. Contracting/consulting budgets seem slimmer. Yahoo's laid off a number of people. Bear Sterns has blown off a lot of employment offers, and the rest of the financial sector is tight, tight, tight -- MBA students everywhere are crying right now.

But hype and FUD aside, what's the REAL state of the economy for those of us in the tech sector? Consulting-wise, I know I'm still seeing new infrastructure work, and I'd like to think that trend is going to continue. I know a number of Albany and NYC area companies that are hiring.

What's the tech economy like in YOUR neck of the woods?

Saturday, April 12

Wikidemic: My second Urban Dictionary entry in recent memory

If you've spent any time around the tubes, especially if you've spent any time on social media sites, particularly digg, you've encountered them. They're often young, brash, obnoxious, overly confident(, Linux users)* -- until you cut their baseless arguments to shreds or otherwise disprove their irrational case. They're wikidemics.

*Disclaimer: I run two different distros at home. I'm just saying.

Thursday, April 10


Idempotence just became my new favorite word. I deal with operations like this rather frequently in service-oriented architectures, but I never had a name to put to it before.

Investment clubs

In the next 12 months, I hope to join a local (Albany-ish area, Hudson Valley too maybe) investment club or two. Maybe one in real estate, another in stock investing. I wonder what the area has to offer. I bet has something along those lines.

Wednesday, April 9

Real Estate Investments

After spending the past nearly 8 years clawing my way back from a post-9/11 layoff, when I was younger, dumber and overextended, I'm finally in, or nearly in, a position to consider investing again.

I've been giving some pretty serious consideration to real estate investing. I need to buy a home sooner than later -- tired of throwing away equity as rent.

Some six to twelve months from now, I envision myself purchasing a multi-family home in need of rehab. Something with two units is probably what I'm aiming for. Rehab unit #1 while in my current apartment, move into unit #1, rehab unit #2, rent unit #2, then find a single family home to rehab and maybe flip, maybe move into.

Albany and Troy are putting increasing pressure on absentee landlords, I'm hoping to come across some genuine deals in the coming months. The area offers a lot of colleges, so I'm thinking there ought to be plenty of opportunity to get into REI in lower-priced properties. Then again, maintenance costs of college housing run high. Ideally I'd love to target young professionals, young families, but I'm not sure the market is as suitable for that.

EDIT: This is what I'm talking about.

Dog parks

The world needs more off-leash dog parks.

Specifically, I wish my town (Latham) had a dog park. Or that there was at least one within 10-15 minutes driving distance, that didn't require residence in a specific town.

As an apartment dweller with a 77-pound dog, I yearn for the day when I have a house and a yard. But even then, dogs need more exercise, and certainly more socialization, than most homes' yards can provide.

The Post-Mortem of Glens Falls, NY, essentially where I grew up, is running its second article in recent memory on a Queensbury dog park initiative.

As usual, you've got your normal mix of cranks and generally cantankerous sorts commenting on the article. I do see some validity to the arguments of those who simply don't want to pay the costs -- and, low as they may be, there are certainly costs associated with owning an operating a dog park. Land, maintenance, insurance, cleanup and enforcement all come to mind.

I wonder if dog parks could be run on a co-op basis? I wish I had more time to look into something like this further. I'd happily contribute, say, $25/year in order to have a nearby dog park for my pupster to run around and socialize in.