Thursday, May 29

Software Job Listing FAIL

So Google Alerts (terms: albany software) popped this gem this morning:

"Amazing Position"

"VP of Product Development & Support"

"An Albany area software company seeks a talented individual to provide strategic leadership in the planning, direction and oversight for all product development and support. This individual must be experienced in the organization and management of a software operation. The ideal candidate must possess solid communication and people management skills along with the requisite technical skills."


"Assist in the development of a structure or framework that integrates all departments with other Senior Management to facilitate communication and decision making."


"Resume MUST be mailed."


Here, allow me to instantly produce that structure or framework for you with this WONDERFUL bit of technology from 1965.

VP of product development for a "software" company -- and they don't accept resumes via email? The only thing missing here is really, really bad clip art of a representative dinosaur. Let me fix that.

For all of those who are just dying to apply, check it out.

Thursday, May 22

Giving Disqus a try

I've been far from satisfied with Blogger's commenting system, so I'm giving Disqus a try. This should be the first post with Disqus commenting enabled. I'm sorry for making you sign up for yet another service, but I feel that it has enough value for all concerned that it's worth the five minutes of your time. Thanks in advance!

The integration process seems pretty straightforward. I'll document it in an update to this post, or as a new post, after I finish testing Disqus.

UPDATE: The integration process, for Blogger at least, couldn't be simpler. Big thumbs up to Disqus.

Monday, May 19

Big happenings this week?

Rumors are running rampant about renewed Microhoo talks. Scoble is also proclaiming Microsoft's intent, per John Furrier, to buy Facebook outright, and close it up, turning this from "Facebook vs. Google" to "Microsoft vs. the Web".

What will this mean? To most of us, not much. Digital natives, however, I'm sure wait with bated breath. If Microsoft consolidated a position in search, and landed a major (the premier?) social networking asset, will it open a cloud computing platform a la Google App Engine to fill that gap in its offerings? As an integrated whole, and speaking as a .NET-head, that would be one SWEET setup. Speaking as an advocate for openness, transparency, portability and competition, however, I'd have to note some concerns.

Now if only Windows Mobile could be made a true competitor, outside the enterprise sector.

Meanwhile, Twitter continues to pique interest, peak traffic, and make news.

Friday, May 16

Why Twitter Matters

If Business Week says so it must be so, right?

Quite rightly calling Twitter the "microblogging rage," BW also acknowledges the inescapable "drivel." It's true -- as a lifestreaming-leaning medium, there's plenty of noise (even without considering the Twam.) Plenty of very interesting people have unfortunately unfollowed me due to my own loquacious use of the service.

More importantly, BW touches on some of the bottom line, business-relevant facts of Twitter. Traffic has blown up. Major corporations are using it to enhance their relationship with their customers (Comcast, H&R Block, Hormel) and increase sales (Dell). A rich ecology of third party apps thrives on top of it.

BW also touches on a topic near and dear to the hearts of all Twitterers -- the not-infrequent service outages. Some have blamed this on Twitter's Ruby on Rails platform; the recent departure of chief architect Blaine Cook, Ruby evangelist extraordinaire, has left the question of technological direction wide open.

Twitter's major backer right now is Union Square Ventures; you can find partner Fred Wilson on Twitter daily. With a history of investments including (acquired by Yahoo!) and Feedburner (acquired by Google for ~$100 million USD) and a current portfolio including Etsy and tumblr, you have to think these guys have this thing down.

That said, BW brings up that other favorite Twitter topic -- monetization. What's the model for a microblogging service? The new Japanese-localized Twitter is experimenting with advertising. With the incredible number of third party apps, you'd have to think Twitter begs to go freemium. But the question remains: what the heck IS Twitter worth?

Twitter isn't a fad. It isn't just a trendy toy. It's a tool and a platform that adds value to any business that needs to communicate, whether that's with a community, with clients, with partners, with suppliers or with talent. Twitter is here to stay.

UPDATE: Excellent traffic stats and analysis available at the Compete blog.

Some highlights:

Saturday, May 10

Twitter's Follow:Following Ratio: The one that matters

I'm sure by now I come across as obsessed by Twitter, and maybe that's not an unfair assessment. It's a unique tool that allows extremely easy discovery of "interesting people," and allows you to engage in fairly intimate interaction with those people.

Scoble has huffed and puffed and blown the house down over his "you are who you follow" assessment, which, to me, reeks of grade school cliquey-ness. Why does it matter who I follow? Why does it matter who you follow? Use Twitter however it suits you.

However, there IS one metric I would like to see: on average, how many people do the people who follow me, follow? With what kind of standard deviation, what's the mode? I think that would give you a fairly objective measure of the value of your contribution to Twitter, by gaging the selectivity of those who select you.

Does that make me hypocritical in my use of Twitter? I "follow" over 1300 people, and am "followed" by something like 1400. I certainly follow some very interesting, delightful, informative folks. There are definitely a number of people I interact with regularly. At the same time, there's no question, I follow some people who contribute little or nothing to my life most of the time. People with whom I've never had a conversation. People whose tweets have never twinked my noggin'.

There's definitely an imbalance of value in Twitter. Call it the Great Friend Divide, a la Scoble, if you will. I personally feel that I get more value out of interacting with a large number of interesting, intelligent people through Twitter. However, for every additional person I follow, that's additional segmentation in the attention I pay to my Twitternet -- any one node on my net tends to get less attention.

In other words, there's more value in being followed by someone who follows fewer people, than someone who follows a lot of people. Once you reach a certain point, the only way to get a message through to you is with @s or direct messaging -- which is where Twitter becomes transient, and loses a lot of its initial intimacy potential.

I suppose it all depends on how you use it, what you expect out of it, and what the people who follow you expect out of you. Maybe that's what makes Twitter great.

Thursday, May 8

RANT: Elevator etiquette

Whatever happened to a little elevator etiquette?

You're awaiting an elevator. NEWSFLASH: YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY PERSON ON THE PLANET. In fact, there stands a very good chance that OTHER PEOPLE are using the same elevator(s) you're waiting to use!

When the elevator doors open, GIVE PEOPLE A MOMENT TO EXIT THE ELEVATOR before you go barging in! Seriously -- are you in THAT much of a hurry? At least look before you leap!

But hey, all that said -- enjoy my iced coffee. I bet it tastes quite good, wrung from your blouse, into the ladies' room sink that gets cleaned maybe once a week.

And one more bit of elevator-ness: don't rush to push the button when the door is almost closed with someone else inside, forcing them to wait while the doors reopen, you board, etc. etc. - especially when there are two or more elevators. That other person, or people, was/were there first. Let the elevator depart, THERE WILL BE ANOTHER CAR. Or, better, if you're REALLY in a hurry, TAKE THE STAIRS!

/pet peeves ranting ... for now

This is a test. You can ignore it.

I recently started posting my blog to my corporate site. However, not every opinion I express is necessarily one of a relevant and/or business-like nature, so while widgetizing the ATOM 1.0 feed-consuming blog code, I decided to add tag-based filtering. Only blog posts I tag as "hes" should end up the company page.

So, here goes the first test. Will the widget behave?

Widget source will be published once testing is complete. Widget uses .NET 3.5, ServiceModel.Syndication namespace. Highly configurable, with caching options (particularly handy when your site is subject to security scanning tools, which can cause feed providers like FeedBurner to label repeated feed requests as malware or bot. Thanks, Nanny Google.)

Widget can be deployed in multiple independent instances throughout site, so you could use a single blog with a number of different tags to publish area-specific content across your site by associating tags with those areas. Kind of a weak CMS (content or knowledge management system) taxonomy. Could possibly use it to auto-associate related blog posts as well.

UPDATE: It appears as though the tag-based filtering is working appropriately :)

Friday, May 2

The Albany Tech Market - Part II

OK, quick recap. I'd been in Rochester nine years, worked a few fulltime roles and a number of contract/consulting positions.

Over the years, I'd done what I could to keep an eye on the Albany market. There was little or no call for classic ASP that I ever saw. Java, sure. RPG, yeah. COBOL, yep. C++, absolutely.

.NET was slow to gain traction in the Capital District; when I first really dove into .NET, and C#, at the end of 2005 (I'd worked -- loosely -- in VB.NET previously half-porting classic ASP stuff into ASP.NET 1.0/1.1) I was pretty head-down in various projects, and hadn't checked the Albany market in a while. When I started looking for .NET jobs in the area in the summer of 2006, there were a decent number of listings on Monster, mostly through recruiters. I ended up hooking up with Davis Vision through Robert Half -- an absolutely miserable experience. (Not the Davis aspect -- Davis is 100% pure awesome.)

Allow me to note: I do not, in any manner, way, shape, fashion nor form, endorse the Robert Half experience. Nor any "big" recruiter either. Stick with the locals. Stick with the places that realize you're important enough that you're in touch with principals, not fresh-faced account reps eager to earn a commission and move on to the next available target to leach off of.

Speaking of locals, and speaking of .NET being slow to gain traction, Art Bianco, principal at Computer Technical Services (CTS) in Great Oaks, has echoed my feel on .NET jobs in the area. As someone who's done fair amount of Java and mainframe placements, as of February 2008, Art feels that, yes, .NET listings have certainly been increasing in the Albany area for a while now, though perhaps not disproportionately to listings in other technologies.

I know we at Davis Vision are constantly looking for great .NET people -- our architect has been through many dozens of resumes, phone screened dozens of those. We've interviewed some ... 8 or 10? candidates in the 18 months I've been there. We've offered less than half of those interviewed, we've hired 3. We're still looking for more, but they seem to be hard to find. There's a maxim I read recently about the number of truly good software engineers in any technology not increasing with time. Very limited resource -- the early adopters are often the true professionals and enthusiasts, and everyone else who comes along got into the game because they saw it as an easy route to a good income. I think the noise we see on the DotNetDevelopment Google Group demonstrates this all too well.

I know Jennifer Lee, HR manager at AutoTask, is constantly looking for good .NET people. I know Art Bianco of CTS is looking for good .NET people, and Susan Lundberg, principal at Capital Tech Search, is often looking for good .NET people as well as a variety of other technical roles. Other local recruitment firms seem to have a number of listings as well, but I'm not sure how unique they are beyond what Computer Technical Services and Capital Tech Search offer. I know VersaTrans was hiring, not certain of their current status; they were recently acquired I believe.

craigslist is, like anyplace else, pretty noisy, often spammy. There are definitely a lot of web-related listings, but most of them want something for nothing, or want the world, in PHP, for $12/hour 20hours/week. That said, in the 14 months or so I've been glancing at craigslist, I have hooked up with two solid, paying, .NET-centric clients. One of those opportunities has led to me taking a CTO title. I also know Agora Games over in Troy lists positions on craigslist.

Demise of Martha's Dandee Cream?

Growing up, it was a generally known truth in the Glens Falls, Queensbury and Lake George area that the best soft ice cream around was to be found at Martha's Dandee Cream.

[I really need to find a photo of the giant rooster sign I seem to recall this place had.]

Martha's Dandee Cream is (was?) located across Route 9 from The Great Escape, formerly known as Storytown. The Great Escape was once owned by local rich guy Charles Wood. In the mid or late 90s, Wood sold the park, which eventually became part of the Six Flags family. I seem to recall it changed hands a few times, to Premier Parks, back to Wood, then to Six Flags, but Wikipedia doesn't seem to support this recollection.

Martha's ended up being purchased, if I understand and recall correctly, by Six Flags, or the entity that became or was absorbed by Six Flags. At some point there was a Martha's stand inside the park. Though I didn't have the opportunity to taste either in this time period, I've heard the quality at Martha's took a dive, and that the worthy successor to Martha's was Rob and Deb's, a place over on Dix Ave.

In this morning's Times Union, I read that Cold Stone Creamery is opening its 14th Six Flags location inside The Great Escape. What happened to Martha's? Is it still standing?