Wednesday, September 30

Healthcare Napkins All

Great breakdown on American Health Care that even Republicans can understand. (Via Marshal Sandler)

Things that make you go "Hrmmmmmm ..."

Anyone who works is a fool. I don't work - I merely inflict myself upon the public.
Robert Morley

Tuesday, September 29

Very Interesting SaaS Consulting CTO work

For about a month or so now I've been serving as consulting CTO for a stealth mode NYC startup in the SaaS/SCM/BI space. We've been researching and vetting a suite of products for integration as a SaaS offering. Lots of vendor phone calls, trial installs, conversations with industry leaders who really know their stuff.

My client has now inked some licensing paperwork. With the clock ticking on some expensive software licenses, it's time to move on to the rapid prototyping stage. We're looking at utilizing VPS (virtual private server) images -- perhaps "in the cloud" on EC2, perhaps at a more conventional datacenter -- to allow quick and flexible server provisioning as we explore the caveats of integrating these disparate architectures in varying configurations.

This prototype will serve multiple purposes: as stated above, we need to get to know the gotchas of operating and offering these products as a suite, as well as gain domain- and product-specific knowledge. We need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of various arrangements of the products and the supporting/surrounding infrastructure. The CEO of course needs something to put in front of potential investors and early clients.

I am really looking forward to this -- it's going to be a lot of fun. And, as always, a great learning experience.

Job: Mid-level .NET Developer in Saratoga, NY

A friend has "a client in Saratoga that needs a solid mid – to senior level developer – must be .Net C# and SQL. 4-6 years of experience. This person needs to be independent and take ownership of one of the products."

Pay range is decent for upstate NY -- email me a...@b... for details.

Angry-Coders: Banish communication from thy house



Or, requirements gathering with non-technical users: often a Sisyphean task.

Monday, September 28

Worth thinking about

We don't know one-millionth of one percent about anything.
Thomas Edison

Alan Weiss on Twitter: Consultant's Syndrome? Or just a jerk at work?

AKA, "Some people just don't 'get' it," or, "An Open Letter to Alan Weiss, Consulting Guru."

I lost a personal hero today: Alan Weiss, consultant extraordinaire and author of books on the field and practice of consulting (books that I own.)

Per his blog, Alan recently celebrated topping a few more than 1000 followers, the headline reading something to the effect of, "Rockstar consultant passes 1000 followers." Also per his blog, Alan is working on his first social media engagement. Being the consultant and big Twitter, social networking and open API guy that I am, I figured I'd check out his account.

I was immediately disappointed. Alan follows no one, had almost no @ replies ("mentions") of anyone in his Tweets, doesn't update frequently or regularly, and seems to post mostly broadcast tweets -- no engagement.

And I told him so: "@BentleyGTCSpeed I hesitate to follow you. I love your work, but you don't seem to really be embracing and engaging Twitter followers." http://twitter.com/andrewbadera/statuses/4393854070

What did this wise wizard of consulting, master of his profession, man from whom I already have learned much, have to offer in reply? "@andrewbadera I provide value, I don't think you have the rule book. Don't be so judgmental, your rules aren't mine." http://twitter.com/BentleyGTCSpeed/statuses/4394025226

Provide value? If I wanted a one-way broadcast, that's what your RSS feed (which I'm subscribed to already) is for. Twitter doesn't excel at, isn't predominantly consumed by people for, reproductions of RSS feeds, or one-way broadcasts -- that's what RSS aggregators are for. And ... judgmental? Maybe, but it's certainly my right to judge whether or not you and your account are worth me following. (Last I'd checked this wasn't Nazi Germany, right?)

From there the "conversation" degraded into Alan acting as though I had attacked him or issued an edict as to exactly how he should use Twitter, him protesting that he isn't "a herd animal." Then Alan tells me he's trying to "educate" me about my "narrow thinking." Alan, sorry pal, smart and experienced and education-capable as you are, you aren't the Great Educator. You don't Know It All. I simply offered an observation -- one you cannot protest, one that is not wrong, for it is my personal observation regarding my own personal feelings towards your Twitter account and whether or not I would want to follow your personal account with my own personal account -- and you turned around and spewed garbage and anger at me.

Alan Weiss, you've lost my faith. I will never buy another of your products. I will never read, nor pass on, another one of your crappy interviews (you just don't interview well ... or you just don't _care_ to interview well, and with my recent experiences of you, I'm going with the latter.)

Alan: Twitter is FILLED with consultants, and those who wish to be. A true "rockstar" of consulting, especially in this economy, could have tens of thousands of followers practically overnight -- if not hundreds of thousands, or millions. (That might be stretching it -- Joe Six-Pack doesn't know, nor care, who the heck Alan Weiss is. But 1000 is nothing -- certainly nothing to celebrate or brag about.) Twitter is the perfect medium for gurus, and you could be among the top, most-followed advice-givers, which could only build your brand and improve your sales while being hugely beneficial, possibly life-changing, to thousands and thousands and thousands of people. Of course, this sort of interaction with regular human beings (the aforementioned "herd") might simply be beneath you.

The reason you have a paltry 1000something followers is because you are not embracing the medium. You can certainly choose to use, not use, misuse or abuse your Twitter account as you see fit -- and I, as is my right, and as is the nature of social media, will continue to offer my opinion as to whether or not I feel like you embrace the medium in a fashion that makes me wish to follow you. If you do not care, as you claim, then ignore me instead of getting angry and parental with me. Arguing with me about an attack or edict I never issued, in lieu of thinking about what I have to say and reacting meaningfully to it, is childish at best, and exposes your limitations as both a consultant and a human being.

Alan, your first social media engagement would currently seem doomed to failure -- you demonstrate a complete lack of understanding and comprehension of the medium and its use, not to mention finer points of etiquette and interaction. I can only hope that you educate yourself and open YOUR narrow thinking.

Finally I must ask the reader, is this a prime example of Consultant's Syndrome? Smart, successful people so used to giving advice, and training and educating others, that we have a hard time accepting any kind of input that doesn't 100% agree with our world-view or ego? Or is it just a case of an egotistical, narrow-minded, churlish jerk being an egotistical, narrow-minded, churlish jerk? Either way, a lesson to be learned.

Friday, September 25

Bambibot: Evolution

Wow, twammers. I'm almost impressed. Nearly a 1:1 following:followed ratio, and some 1700+ followers at that. Believable Twitter updates, AND a blog backing the profile! Though bad grammar, capitalization and syntax are found throughout the text, it's sadly believable as the product of a child of the SMS generation.

Of course, turning to the blog, it's a spamblog/link farm. The supposed owner of the blog's pictures link to an adult dating site. And yet again, the screen name, "MichelleLoli," doesn't exactly match the alleged actual name, "Stefi Tossie."

Here's an account I followed for a while, where the person/people behind the account actually seem to interact with the other people the account follows. No actual conversations, but occasional, relevant, one-liner @ replies to something you said. Maybe the woman behind it really does Tweet, and she's just a really busy pornstar/dominatrix ... or maybe it's a half-hearted effort to pump traffic to the pornstar's site by some cheapo marketing firm or seospammers. Bambibot, or no?

Toward healthier living

It's approaching a year since I decided it was time to lose some of the extra weight I'd gained sitting in front of a monitor for 60+ hours a week for years on end. I figure it's time for an update.

I got off to a slow start, followed by period of little to no progress. I dropped a total of about 10 pounds from October 2008 through May 2009. A start, but only barely. Since the end of May however I've dropped another 25-30 pounds, thanks to eating MUCH healthier, and getting a little bit more time outside with my dog. My BP has dropped from scary numbers (150/110+ at times; gave the hospital a scare after a diagnostic procedure in June) to something generally much closer to 120-135/82-88.

Now, I should note: by MUCH healthier, I mean no Dunkin' Donuts or McDonald's breakfasts, and very few take-out lunches. And less drinking of alcohol or sugar. A little more fiber. Less sugar overall. Less bad fats. (Less fatty meats.) More good fats. (Fish, flax, nuts.) More veggies. More legumes. I was still frying foods all summer, but ran out of frozen fryer food in my freezer and tossed the deep fryer sometime late August or early September.

Interestingly, to me at least, what this DIDN'T mean was that I had to get all "Nazi" on my diet or lifestyle. I still often eat a steak, or two, a week, but it's more often a NY strip or sirloin or London broil than a ribeye, and I'm eating more chicken instead of steak (there are weeks with no red meat at all, which is a big change for me.) More low-fat cottage cheese as a snack, or even a small meal. I still order the occasional six-slice half-pepperoni pizza (maybe 2x a month, sometimes more) or Chinese take-out (1-2x/month, much smaller (1/2-2/3) quantities than previously) and my longtime favorite, buffalo chicken wings (2-3x/month instead of 4-6.)

I still go out for the occasional drinks with friends and professional acquaintances, and I still drink more Scotch than I (or anyone) should. I did cut out almost all non-diet drinks of any sort however. Still drinking my french pressed coffee, with sugar, Splenda w/ fiber and skim milk. I'm probably drinking more milk (skim and low-fat chocolate) than before. I'm drinking more Lipton's diet green teas than before. Water/overall fluid intake is probably about the same as it had been, maybe slightly increased.

I've been getting out for longer/more frequent walks with my dog, thanks to the benefits of doing mostly remote (phone and email driven) technology consulting work that has given my schedule a lot of flexibility. My dog has lost about 7 pounds too. That said, the busier I've been, the less we've been getting out for walks. I still try to get at least 2 miles in a day, but it has become tough. In the height of the summer weather, during a lull in my work, we were getting 2-3.5 miles every day, no problem.

Along the way I've used a few different sites to track progress, motivate me, and/or find healthy recipes and exercise techniques. These are:

Skinnyr
An embeddable graph. Not a lot of innovation over the past couple years. Now offering a premium option that I don't feel it worth paying for. I will probably stop recording my weight here ... in fact, I just made the decision. No more skinnyr for me.

DailyBurn (formerly Gyminee)
Great UI. Decent social interaction capabilities that can contribute to progress and motivation. Great food tracking. Good progress tracking overall. Decent reporting. Tim Ferriss is an investor, which personally I consider a negative point. Fortunately I don't see his obnoxious personality and ego in my day-to-day use of the site.

SparkPeople
Antique-looking UI. Great social interaction. Great database of healthy recipes. Great meal planning capabilities. Food database seems lacking compared to DailyBurn however, and the process of recording what you ate, if you eat off-plan, is EXTREMELY cumbersome. Decent reporting.

If you could combine the best of DailyBurn and SparkPeople, you would have the ultimate fitness site, in my ever-so-humble-opinion. ;)

***EDIT***

I almost forgot WalkJogRun! This site is awesome for hikers, walkers and runners. You can plot and save your routes, sharing them publicly or keeping them private, on a Google map, but unlike Google Maps, you can go off-road with your waypoints. WalkJogRun calculates distance and calories burned. WalkJogRun also offers an elevation map of your route. I'm not completely sure, but the calories-burned calculator may also take that elevation into account. (Which would be pretty freakin' cool if true.)

***EDIT***

I intend to drop another ~40 pounds in the coming year, which would put me under freshman year (high school) football weight, as well as get back in the gym and starting lifting some weight. Diet alone won't get me where I want to be.

I'd like to thank Allen Stern at CenterNetworks for originally turning me on to Skinnyr and SparkPeople.

Wednesday, September 16

I declare Web 3.0

I can do that because Bernanke says the recession is over and I have a blog, right? Even if I don't have an Irish last name, a large publishing and media empire, and huge ego? Wait, check that, got the ego.

Of course I'm sure you ask: what IS Web 3.0?

It's the SEMANTIC WEB like all the search gurus and jargon bandwagoneers have been blogging and blagging on about for years now, right?

Sorry people, I have to disagree. Web 3.0 is going to be all about "real-time web."

Let's look at the space:

Facebook gets it! They bought FriendFeed, which is real-time-centric, has real-time-search and created SUP - Simple Update Protocol. SUP is a mechanism of faster RSS & ATOM conveyance; per Wikipedia, some implementors include YouTube, Disqus, Brightkite, Identi.ca, Backtype and 12seconds.tv. And on a separate but related note, Facebook recently launched Facebook Lite.

Twitter gets it - they've been real-time since the beginning! And they have started to analyze conversations in real-time pretty hardcore in the past year or so, beginning with their purchase of Summize. Their real-time offering is their Streaming API. Twitter's busy enough dealing with availability and scaling issues, and gaffed over OAuth too often, to offer something that I would expect to propagate across the industry as a standard protocol however.

People at Google get it, at least 20% of the time: check out PubSubHubBub, (PSHB) a real-time RSS and ATOM mechanism that runs on Google App Engine (GAE). Some big name implementors include FriendFeed, Live Journal and Six Apart. As well as Google itself of course.

Dave Whiner Winer gets it: he developed rssCloud years ago. Unfortunately it never experienced wide implementation. It's a solid offering, but with the growing popularity of GAE and activity levels around PSHB, I think Dave's protocol is going to end up left out in the cold by a lot of developers and architects. That said, WordPress did implement rssCloud recently. I haven't noticed any other big names do so yet, but I can't say I've been particularly focused on the topic.

Of course real-time tends to greatly increase the volume of information (if not the quality of the signal). Perhaps semantic will play a large role in helping us sift through all the feeds from our various new real-time toys, but Web 3.0's foundation is going to be real-time, period. Rich, robust semantic will perhaps be icing on the cake of real-time.

Sunday, September 13

Worth thinking about

The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.
Robert Frost
US poet (1874 - 1963)

Thursday, September 10

Busy fall in Tech Valley!

Great slate of upcoming events before the snow falls (hopefully!)


This week we had Steve Andrews' MVC presentation at TVUG. Next month, October 6th I believe, I'll be presenting the basics of OAuth and Linq2Twitter, in the context of using the Twitter API. That will be followed up at our November 7th Tech Valley Code Camp (I need to update the site, sorry!) with a more in-depth look at DotNetOpenAuth and Linq2Twitter.

Also coming up THIS MONTH: The Microsoft Northeast Roadshow returns to Albany on September 22nd at RPI! Jim O'Neil has full details.

Northeast Roadshow: Food for Thoughts Tour

After a long summer, you’re probably hungry for more tools and techniques to feed your development efforts. Touring the northeast this fall for the tenth Roadshow, road and code warriors Jim O’Neil and Chris Bowen have cooked up a select menu of sessions that are sure to please the heartiest of appetites. From current tools and technologies to practical insights, there is plenty to digest!

Reservations are required, so register today for a seating at these free and relaxed technology events.

You’ll see how Chris and Jim handle the heat of the demo kitchen, dish out knowledge, and pepper guests with half-baked humor, all the while being grilled by audience questions.

The Agenda – A Four Course Meal for the Mind

(Rochester attendees, note that program starts at 10 a.m.)

1:00 PM – Essential Patterns, Practically Served

Design patterns, they’re important but often presented with unappetizing formality, like getting only the oat bits from a box of marshmallow cereal. We’ll sample a small set of key patterns, but also show you how free frameworks and tools (such as Enterprise Library, Prism, Unity, Velocity, and others) put each of those patterns directly into practice – so you can too. You’ll leave with a mind full of practical technology and a healthy understanding of how to turn underlying patterns into recipes for success.

2:15 PM – 7-Up(grade) Your Applications

Refresh your existing applications by pouring in some the new features of Windows 7 via the managed-code Windows API Code Pack. We’ll quench your thirst for how to incorporate the Taskbar, jumplists, and Libraries by taking the cap off an existing Windows Forms application and adding new capabilities, all the while retaining compatibility for your XP and Vista users. We’ll have you bubbling with excitement, able to give your applications that extra pop.

3:30 PM – Silverlight Snacks that Satisfy

There’s a generous amount of delicious ingredients in Silverlight 3 and we’re going to focus deeply on some of the most enriching. We’re going beyond the standard fare in this code-heavy session to create an application that leverages the new out-of-browser and offline execution features, local and remote connections, local data storage, and more. You’ll see that Silverlight 3 applications can be fortified with features so they can go well beyond being eye candy.

4:45 PM – Chips off the .NET Block

As seasoned developers, we know there’s a mix of options on the trail to implementing requirements. From staples like value types vs. reference types, interfaces vs. classes, Strings vs. StringBuilder, to other more exotic ingredients you may have yet tried, this session will dip into ways to leverage .NET, offering a taste of the impact they have on code execution, performance, and extensibility.

5:50 PM – “Check Please!” We’ll box any leftovers, collect your comment cards, and distribute an array of giveaways.

Thursday, September 3

New Twist on Twam

Noticing a scary twitterspam trend these past couple weeks: bambibots and other spambots on Twitter are getting a lot more subtle. A few months back, you saw them spewing out random bits of text obviously taken from other sources, but those bits were often fragments, and the following:followed ratio was hundreds:1 or worse. Account names were still pretty obviously simple enumerations or iterations.


This week, I'm seeing spambot accounts with reasonable following ratios, believable names, and bits of text that would almost make sense as entire thoughts or sentences, if you didn't understand that a word like "uni" for "school" or "college" wouldn't be used by a girl in Louisiana, particularly not in the middle of August.


Big giveaway: name reads "Kayla," Ms. 'Claire.' Ooops!

The linkspam volume has died down. You could almost believe it's a real account, not just a broadcast mouthpiece for porn, SEO and MLM links.

One giveaway the nasty spammers seem to fail to be dealing with: the source parameter. Without an officially registered app, the source parameter describing the app that a tweet was sent from is going to be displayed as "From API." Not "From Web." Not "From Tweetdeck" or "From Seesmic" -- "From API."

With OAuth, there's no reason for legitimate users to be calling in over Basic Auth anymore -- no reason a legit user should be displaying "From API" -- certainly not with any regularity.

Developers: register your app, use the freely available OAuth libraries that are proliferating, and deal with the occasional OAuth downtime.