Friday, December 29, 2006

Two for the Heap

Like Simon, I've always kept an eye on Shaun Inman's blog -or if not so much his content, on his designs. His concept of having old posts slowly disappear into nothingness is a really odd, and quite interesting idea. So yeah, another endorsement from me - but the fact that he's currently having a bunch of fun with his new Wii is also close to my heart - in fact, most of his posts kind of mirror what I've been doing since I started my holiday...Yay for Holidays!

No Wii for me today though. I need to go and camp out at the DMV, to obtain my Virginia drivers license - besides the fact that American cops tend to freak out when you show them an ACT drivers license, they charge you through the nose for insurance. (Not the cops, the insurance companies.)

I'm resolved to just live there for the whole day.

If you'd like to share, you can take some sample tests here. Then you could just stand in a queue for an hour or so. Then sit down and do nothing for an hour. Then try to explain to a stuffed animal why your birthday is written the wrong way around on your drivers license.... Then sit down and do nothing for another hour....*sigh*

Call it... Pointless.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Talking Bollocks

Dear Lazyweb,

Is the word 'Bollocks' considered offensive?

I ask because I used it in a new upcoming post for the TOWER Software Blog, and I was wondering if maybe it might be deemed 'inappropriate'...

I used it because I think it's funny, but the extensive wikipedia entry on the word is just outright hilarious...
"In a technological context, the question could be 'Why has the web
developer included a three-minute animated intro to this page?', prompting
the answer: 'Dog's Bollock Syndrome, Mate. Because he can.'"

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

So long, SOAP

Here's an interesting tie-in to the simplicity debate - Four years after the hype, Google has quietly axed the SOAP Web service API to it's search interface. (full story here) And nobody cares. Why?

The SOAP concept grew out of a great simple idea. The Idea was this:

"wouldn't it be nice to do RPC stuff via XML?

The first iteration of what would become SOAP was pretty straightforward - XMLRPC. Version 1.0 of SOAP built upon that, and was still human readable, and okay. Sometime after that, the big boys like Microsoft, IBM and Sun jumped on board, and proceeded to complexify, 'standardize' and completely bugger the specification about until the final modern iteration of SOAP was so confusing, that only the most zeal-ridden platform zealots were singing it's praises - and even they didn't actually know how the thing worked anymore.

Marketing execs all over the world were so desperate for 'Web Services' that they confused them with 'Web Sites', 'Web Parts', and 'Windows Services'. The only thing spreading faster than misinformation was glossy brochures. The whole thing was deranged.

The original, simple idea was lost in a maelstrom of add-ons and transactional plug-ins and security goo and it all became horrible. Actively trying to build a solution architecture on top of this thing is something that no self-respecting architect would do. Instead, the developer world has slowly gotten over this mondo corporate brainwashing, turned back to the more sensible ideas - REST based XML web services - where you ask a question and get an answer using a URL (kind of like...the Internet!)

I think that today marks the beginning of the end of the end for SOAP, now that the Google SOAP API is finished (not that many folk were using it, anyway...) Whatever good ideas SOAP held at the beginning have been totally wrecked. I mean, the S in SOAP used to stand for SIMPLE. When they stopped using the acronym and tried to make out that it was 'just a name', alarm bells should have gone off all over the world...

Can we all just put it behind us and move on now?

Monday, December 18, 2006

What's an OGG?

If you've ever run across an OGG file, chances are you've probably gone - "What on earth is that?" And then you'd find out that it was an open source, slightly superior music compression format that tends to be used by the more 1337 amongst us. Then, you might have wondered how you could listen to something that had been encoded with it.

Well, if you wanted to use iTunes, you were previously out of luck - or so I thought, until I found the quicktime plugin. This has been around for a while, but now it seems to work great.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Now that's commitment.

I can remember 'certain' students used to find a modicum of ribald hilarity in scrawling the traditional 'dick and balls' on a plastic high school chair, but these kids have completely taken it to a new level.

Tsk, Tsk - Busted by Google Earth - the shame...

(The Google Maps link.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My new favourite movie

Nearly 100 percent of the time, Cable TV in America dishes up the most inane garbage, very rarely worthy of any comment. And yet, sometimes... well, suffice to say that thanks to Encore, I now have a new favourite movie - North Shore, from 1987. How can this be so? Well, because of the following:
  • Awesome Surf Footage,
  • A ridiculous cheesy plot line about a surfer from Arizona (yes, Arizona) who wins a surfing contest in a wave pool, and then decides to go to O'ahu to surf the Pipeline Classic.
  • Cheesy eighties music soundtrack, that includes Journey and Pseudo Echo,
  • Awesome Surf Footage,
  • A truly terrible love story straight out of a Sweet Valley High book.
  • Lots of gratuitous shots of chicks lying on the beach in ugly eighties bikinis,
  • A bunch of 'Bad Ass' Hawaiian locals,
  • Actual cameos from amazing real life surfers like Mark Occhilupo, Laird Hamilton and Gerry Lopez; and
  • Awesome Surf Footage.
I mean, really, could there possibly be anything more you could need in a movie?

I don't think there is...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dante Says...

This is just a reminder to make sure you keep up to date with Harsher Light - Little Headed Simon's tale of a skilled Gothic hero just keeps getting more and more intriguing.

Who is this guy? What are these terrifying sexy angels that are trying to kill people? Can you really use crushed aspirin and smoke to detect evil spirits? Some of these questions may be answered, but you'll have to keep your browser (or your RSS Reader) tuned to

Thursday, December 07, 2006

New York City

I was, I admit, a little ambivalent about making the trip up from DC to New York City. My wife, Ali, was extremely envious of the idea. But, (as a good husband so often finds) , It turns out she was right.

New York is an extremely inspiring place. It's like a thousand ideas colliding all at once.
Everywhere I walked, I was mindful of New York stuff,( even though I grew up about as far away as you can get -in Australia ) - things like the 59th Street Bridge, Madison Square Gardens, 42nd Street, Times Square - Lyrics from the Beastie Boys, those dumpsters from Law and Order episodes, Ben Lee and Grandmaster Flash, and the art-deco style uber buildings that define the megalopolis.

Times Square was particularly amazing at night - If you don't pay attention to where you're going, You'll almost certainly be run over by a cab - but if you don't, you'll probably accidentally buy something - the neon assault of advertisements is a wonder to behold. I didn't get to see the stility building of doom though. Maybe next time...

Seems that if New York wants to make a point, there won't be any mis-interpreting it. It will be writ really large. It's an amazing place to visit. I gotta come back sometime to play, when there's less work on the table...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I need your permission to continue.

I've spent a few days now with Windows Vista (Ultimate). It is the ultimate many things, but I sure hope that it's not the ultimate operating system. In a way it seems to me that Vista is sort of like a really shallow, hot girlfriend - You have to pay her lots of attention, work hard constantly to keep her happy and in return, she looks gorgeous and drives you absolutely insane with her stupidity and nagging...

I'm talking particularly about User Account Control. This one single 'feature' has the potential to make people throw their machines across the room in all their shiny transparent aero glory. Essentially, the way it works is this: anytime you do anything that could possibly affect the configuration of your computer, Windows prompts you to enter your username and password again, to confirm that you really meant for the action to occur.

This may seem like a cool idea. I understand the point. The theory goes that no nasty virus or spyware will ever be able to do anything mean or nasty, without the user knowing. But, it seems to me, that in this case, as in many things, that Microsoft's heart is bigger than it's brain...

Things that trigger a UAC event include: installing software, re-configuring software, starting a program, saving files (to certain locations), connecting anything to the Internet, starting a windows service, opening a management console, renaming certain files - In short, pretty much everything.

You know, configuring my new OS today(as a local administrator), I think I must have typed my username and password over one hundred times. If a malicious or evil program had somehow been one of those 100 times, would I have typed it in? Chances are, I probably would have. Hell, after about the first 5 UAC events, I was ready to give my username and password to any stupid dialog that popped up and asked. I mean, occasionally I found myself just typing it randomly into e-mails, out of habit...

It reminds me of a story Paula was telling about an organization making a password policy so complex, that users were forced to write passwords down on sticky notes and stick them to their monitors. It devalues the whole thing. My password has been commoditized. It's nearly worthless to me.

So, UAC doesn't solve the problem that it was built to solve - it actually makes it worse. If users aren't prepared to get a whole lot looser with their passwords, then they won't be able to install anything, or make windows perform properly. Either way, it will drive users around the twist. (There were some really choice swear-words coming out of my cube today. )

Sure, you can turn UAC off. But in what may be the 'ultimate' irony, if you do, Windows helpfully nags you constantly to turn it back on!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Zero is a number...

Wow. It's really really cold here in Newfoundland. And by really cold, I mean really, really cold. The forecast low today was zero, and the forecast high was 1.

Now normally, when the weather man is off by a degree or so, nobody really minds. But when it was the only degree we were going to get, I must admit I felt a bit jilted. In the end, the high (and the low!) today turned out to be just zero. There are flurries of snow blowing around, and it gets dark at half past four in the afternoon. My poor bald head is glowing red - I know, bring a hat.. Noted.

Meanwhile, my anti-colleague, Simon (I do actually have some friends who aren't called Simon) , just rang me from Miami, where it was 28 degrees Celsius, and he was watching the sun set from his air-conditioned hotel. Nice...

Monday, November 20, 2006

We Gotta Wii!

Well, after a bunch of sleeping on the sidewalk in subzero temperatures, we finally managed to secure a Wii.

Sleeping outside of a department store has never been on my list of things I wanted to achieve, and I don't think I would recommend it to anyone I liked.

But, (and I'm sticking to my story) - I never really planned to sleep outside. Patrick and I drove down to our local Wal*Mart to try and persuade them to sell us one at midnight, to save my other plan of getting up at 6am and trying to find a console. Of course, when we arrived at Fair Lakes Mall, there were people camping out all over the place, at 11:30. The Wal*Mart guy laughed at us, and said - "Maybe if you arrived here at 8 this morning, like the guys out the front!" So, we unwittingly found ourselves in the line outside of Target.

"Hang on", I Thought. "This isn't the kind of line that moves. We will be here all night..." But by then, four other people had already sat down behind us...

Resigned to our fate, and unwilling to entertain the concept that we might not get one, we bought some 8 dollar sleeping bags from Wal Mart just before it shut, and pulled the back seats out of the car, and settled down into what may have been the worst night's sleep I've ever had.

Patrick was out like a light - I didn't hear from him until about 6am, when they handed us all tickets that ensured we would get a system. All around us, nerds talked nerd talk about video games, and programming, and other tech stuff until the wee small hours. There was a particularly enthusiastic game of Risk going on behind me until about 5:00 ('You pesky fricking Mongolians!..')
But by 8:30 Sunday Morning , we managed to secure ourselves a family Wii, together with an extra controller and The Legend of Zelda:Twilight Princess.
Since then, there have been some pretty exciting games of Wii Tennis and Wii Bowling among our little family of Miis. The new generation of gaming has begun, and I'll save my impressions of the system for later.
Right now - I niid some sliip!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

We wanna Wii wanna Wii...

It's extremely cold. I feel like I've reached a new level of fanboydom. I'm sitting outside target at 1am, with my son, rugged up in sleeping bags, waiting for the Nintendo Wii, which is released tomorrow morning. At our last count, Pat and I were the 51st people in the line, for the alleged 80 Wii consoles. Blogging via Blackberry hurts my thumbs, so I'll post the outcome later...

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Vista from here...

Okay, so I'm not exactly immune to picking on Windows vista...

But - I just installed the Release Candidate 2, and I have to say - I'm impressed.

The installation process was so smooth and so easy - it only asked me two questions -

  1. what time zone are you in?, and;

  2. what desktop background would you like?

These are easy questions. I like them. So far... so good...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On the pursuit of the approval of strangers

Sometimes I wonder which is the more noble pursuit:

Providing structured social commentary on the complex artifacts of the human society we live in, This includes things like keeping abreast of new technologies, discussing long-winded and entirely artificial constructs like records management, or:

Reporting the simple delights of nature. The things that make me smile, that ring with all of us. The underlying humanist principles that don't need to be hugely detailed, or have whole industries built around them, because they are so built into us all that we appreciate them anyway.

I've lost some of the piqueness I had when I set out to write this post, because I have spent the last few hours in a crowded bar in Dallas Airport, watching commercials(in between a game of American Football). Inspired by Wordsworth, and his boundless enthusiasm for the natural world, I idly both wandered and wondered the terminal, which is absolutely massive, and could almost be seen as a monument to the more contrived human behaviours, and yet - I found natural behaviour everywhere.

From the children, wide-eyed and enraptured at giant sundaes, to the young air hostesses, intently discussing their potential boyfriends in between flights. (I imagined two cave dwelling girls, 10,000 years ago, discussing their nuptial relationships with each other away from the campfire.) The struggling and almost certainly unnoticed triumphantly pathetic blooms of the shiny indoor plants. Family Reunions. Grandparents chasing grand-toddlers into amused strangers...

These things that are innate and understandable hold tremendous appeal and romantic lore, and yet the contrived complexities that human society creates also amaze and astound me. In a way, it was the difference between these two things that brought me to America. I know for a fact that I hold a deep and revered solace with human nature and the natural world. And yet, America is the home of every contrived complexity ever known to man. It is a shrine to human progress, and invention, to capitalism and progressive commerce. Whatever unnatural pursuit that ever there be, for sure you can find it here, celebrated.

And perhaps that is where I love and hate advertising. Right at that nexus where the commercial world tries to tap into human nature in order to generate more profit. Advertising, and marketing in general suffers from a near impossible challenge - the ability to manipulate the innate natural-ness of all people, without appearing disingenuous. And you can't fake human nature - it's implicit in every human. Your audience will always know.

And as I've looked in turn at each shiny fluorescent billboard, the underlying attempt to pull at the heartstrings of the intended viewer seems so transparent - all coming down to simple, basic human emotions - sex, comfort, food, and overwhelmingly, the approval of strangers.

So much advertising is trying to make people feel inadequate and sad. That you won't be a good person unless you buy this brand of speakers, or this brand of face cream. That you need an enormous house in order to impress people you do not know or care about the opinion of.

And for all our ingenious inventions and boundless talents with resources, it all seems a little shallow from my late night viewpoint here on a hard plastic airport chair. To have replaced our innate natural desires with fluorescent advertisements, Shopping Magazines, invoices and Profit and Loss statements seems profoundly hollow.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


You know, you have to keep a constant watch on the sneaky blogosphere.

Sometimes your friends will just start blogging - without even telling you!

Fortunately, there are lots of ways to find them. Technorati knows all (well, some stuff anyway...)

Take that, Big Headed Simon! Subscribed :)

(You know, six of the top eight hits on google for the phrase "Big Headed Simon" are actually about Big Headed Simon. I think he is the only one in the whole world!)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Join the Conversation!

I'm proud to announce that TOWER Software (my employer) has recently unveiled it's new blog ( the RSS feed is here.)

The plan is for TOWER to share some of it's insights and experiences developing TRIM Context, and solving Enterprise Content Management problems from around the world.

I know, most of you are probably thinking.."that sounds really, really boring!", but hey - it's my life! You should check out some of the posts before you jump to any premature conclusions - I certainly plan to contribute a post or two, and feel free to drop by and leave a comment.

The web is a two way medium, after all :)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Firefox 2 CSS Secret...

I just accidentally pressed Ctrl + Shift + C in my new build of Firefox 2.0 for Windows. Check it out - a separate tab just popped up listing every style used on the page I was viewing, including a direct link to the CSS files themselves.

Now, that's extremely cool. Stealing designs from people just got the tiniest bit easier!
(Not that I would ever condone such an activity, of course :)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Democracy in Action...

I have to vote in the US Senate Election Tomorrow. Okay, I don't have to vote, but being an Australian American, voting is something we do.

Australia has compulsory voting, which I am overwhelmingly supportive of.

People often assume that the point of compulsory voting is to somehow educate people about politics - to force them to have an opinion. The reality has nothing to do with voters, and everything to do with ensuring good governance - By forcing politicians to care about every voter, rather than just the ones who can be bothered to go down to the poll both and vote, it means that politicians are consequently forced to address the needs of all the citizens in the country. Under a non compulsory voting system, it's mainly the wealthy and educated who vote. I was a little shocked to find out that part of the aim of the campaign advertisements that have been confusing me for the last month on TV is not to encourage voters to vote for one candidate or another, but to discourage people from voting at all.

Nonplussed, I'm going down to the local poll booth tomorrow (along with an estimated 40% of the population) to exercise my democratic right as to who represents the state of Virginia in the Senate.

The problem here is that I really can't find anything at all appealing in any of the candidates. I know that the Republican is an alleged racist, and the Democrat is an alleged sexist. The independent green lady seems to be a bit short on any policy not involving trains (and her website doesn't work in Firefox) ...

If anyone can offer me some compelling arguments before polling day, I'd sure appreciate it!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Fall In Virginia

Despite the traffic and the population, Virginia is really an amazingly beautiful and fertile place. Here's a few fall snapshots taken from my front yard, (except for the last one, which believe it or not was actually taken in my lounge room ...)

Thursday, November 02, 2006


My brother Grae just launched his photoblog, at the enviable (well, for some of us), domain of

EDIT: Oh, and speaking of things that are purdy, you should check out: for some transcendental web flash magic,..

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

How do you buy the internet?

One startup at a time, I guess...

Google just announced the acquisition of one of the coolest little wiki engines ever, JotSpot.

I've always been quite a fan of the technology and the approach behind JotSpot. (Any company that has a regular hackathon is okay with me!)It will be great to see what google can do to bring the wiki to the masses.

Wikis are definitely my favourite collaboration tools. All those other "big C" collaboration, joint editing instant messagey things (like Groove) all seem to be a bit intimidating.

are easy to use, and they have instant appeal - people can see the value really quickly.

Which is kind of like Google, really...

Punk Capitalism

From the random links department, two things that took my fancy, from opposite ends of the ethical spectrum:
  • The Punk-O-Matic lets you compose a variety of authentic sounding cool punk tunes using Guitar Bass and Drums. Rock on!.
  • mmmzr is an unpronounceable, yet maybe a little bit brilliant site which uses a pyramid style scheme to extract money from advertisers. Right up there with the million dollar homepage and 'wash-your-own-car' for ideas you wish you had thought of.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I want a sandwich...

Parenting is one of those things I never really understood, I just do. I know there are heaps of books you can buy on the subject, and that lots of people must freak out because they're not doing it right, and then go buy those books. Or maybe parents in law buy them as a discreet way of telling their children's spouses that they're not doing it right, or maybe nobody buys them at all...

Either way, my approach to parenting is really simple; children are people. They're often really short bizzare crazy people, but they're people none the less. I worry a bit about the supernanny and the baby whisperer training children to regimes and schedules. You can train children to behave according to your rules, the same way you could train a monkey or a goat, sure. But you don't treat people like that. All kinds of organisations from the Third Reich to Heaven's Gate have managed to successfully train people to behave in a particular way. They didn't get their own reality TV show.

My story goes that you should respect your children. That doesn't mean that you should let them do whatever they want - more that you develop a mentor relationship with them, where they'll listen to your advice because they respect it. This means that sometimes you need to tolerate behaviour that you don't like. But hey, I tolerate behaviour I don't like in lots of people, and most of them are grown ups. It means that you teach your kids the value of reason, by occasionally changing your mind based on their opinion. Then, the next time you want them to modify their behaviour, they're more inclined to listen to your argument. I'm not saying that my kids have no rules and can do whatever they want. My kids know about the rules, and why they are there. They don't always like them, but they comply with them.

Society is like that. Lots of rules for you to follow. People complain about 'them' - like how "they" make you fill in your tax return. Well, while my kids are little, I'm them. I'm society.

Humans are much cooler than goats or monkeys. In a child is all the personality and ego and specialness that you'll find in any human that ever lived. As a parent, I don't think it's fair to try to replace those little people's ideas or values with your own, any more than it is to assert your opinion over anyone else. Sure you'll influence them. But it's got to be more about providing guidance and advice than it is about fitting your child in with your life.

Of course, a lot of my ideas on being a parent come from my own Mom, who has decided to start her own site explaining how she managed for so long.

You can find her own, handcrafted thoughts on the topic at

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Selamat Pagi, Blog-Land!

I had the pleasure of getting an e-mail out of the blue from an old friend last week - thanks to the inter-connected world of the blogosphere. He'd ran across my blog (from Cam's blog) and had read up to find out what it was I'd been doing since we parted ways in college. It was kind of weird to talk to someone after such a long time and have nothing much to say that he didn't already know!

Dan's been adventuring in Indonesia for the last seven years, and he's finally 'sold out' and started publishing his writings. You should prime your rss readers (I found one that I love -this one!) and head on over to his new blog to get the latest updates on his progress -they'll be required reading around these parts.

Welcome aboard, Dan-o!

White Collar Tweakers

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was trying to come to terms with exactly how to use the Novation Remote Midi Controller in conjunction with Reason...

Well, I'm still trying to figure it out - I've thrown away nearly everything that I've created, but today I managed to create a song that was worthy of persistence.

If you'd like to hear it, you can download it here.

I figure I'm using about 2-3% of the software's features. Not even having the faintest idea how a synthesiser works, I'm viewing the exercise as something of a random knob-tweaking frenzy...

So many buttons to push, so little time...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

5 ways to survive the Death March

In Software Development Land, there is one kind of project that nobody wants to end up on.

Identifying features of these projects often contain wildly unrealistic goals, crazed unrealistic timelines, a lack of adequate requirements or supporting technical infrastructure, and often, a combination of all of those things.

These projects are affectionately termed 'Death March' projects. I know the name sounds a little extreme, but that's really what they are called. (Here's the wikipedia link to prove it.) I've just survived a project that has had me working crazy hours, weekends, public holidays, and basically any time that I wasn't asleep in an effort to pull one of these off. It all wrapped up today, and in the end, it wasn't that bad. Well, it was actually pretty bad in some ways. For example, my kids haven't seen me in 36 hours, and my wife hasn't actually kicked me in the balls , (but to be honest I wouldn't blame her if she did), so for the purpose of this article, I'm defining "not bad" in the sense that the project itself didn't fail.

So, I thought I'd share my thoughts of how to survive one of these projects, keep your team's reputation intact, and emerge with some semblance of dignity. (Even though the resulting bags under your eyes and disheveled appearance may very well scare young children.)

I'm going to leave out the concept of how to identify if your project is a death march or not - I'm assuming you already know if your project qualifies. So without further ado, here are my 5 tips for death march survival:

1) Cut the right corners

One of the hallmarks of death march projects is that things get left out. In an effort to make the deadline, all kinds of smart, sensible things that Joel tells you to do, like bug tracking and spec writing get abandoned in favour of getting it done. This makes sense - a Death March project has to take shortcuts if you want to have any chance of making it. What's crucial is that you make each one of these 'discard' decisions intentionally, and really carefully. Everything you skip will result in some level of risk - and you need to determine if you're willing to accept it.

Things we abandoned included source control (we had a small team in the same place), code reviews, major re-factoring, and most of the formal bug-tracking (we used a tadalist). We abandoned any written technical architecture, Object modeling, and coding standards, like variable naming or commenting. We didn't do unit-tests, or any other automated testing.

Pretty much all we did have, were a great requirements document with use case analysis, and a great functional spec, both signed off by the customer. This left is in the position that we didn't have any idea of how we were going to technically implement the thing in three weeks, but we did know what it was we had to deliver.

The most important point, in my experience, is that you might be able get by without most of these otherwise (extremely sensible) things, but I don't think you can abandon accurate requirements analysis. If you aren't sure exactly what ridiculous thing you are going to build in this ridiculous timeframe, you're pretty much hosed. Which leads on to:

2) Find the one true measure

When (and if) your death march project finishes, it will be judged on one thing - the way the product meets the original project goals. (Again, some projects don't have these, which makes it nigh impossible to pin down whether or not your project is a success or a failure).

Early on in the march, you need to identify precisely what it is that will determine your project's success (or it's failure.) Often, this is tied directly to the customers expectations.

Sometimes, the customers expectations are also too fuzzy to determine. In this case, I'd recommend that you look through the expected functionality and find the one or two use cases that will either:
(a) be used most often; or
(b) be used most by the user who can most influence the success or failure of the project.
Such obvious bias and prejudicial treatment is a little unethical, but hey, it's your ass on the line, right? Optimize your application for the one true thing that will give you the best chance of looking like a success, even if your project is largely smoke and mirrors...

3) Single Thread

The team needs to be able to focus only on the project. Don't try to maintain any persistent contact with a regular day job, or other people who want to ask questions about that other application that was built last year. Isolate the development team, and cut them off from any further distractions.

If possible, remove access to email - it's a huge source of distraction. Even better, move them off-site, and have them work from a relaxed environment, free of regular workplace hassles, where they can get all scraggly and unshaven and wear t-shirts.

Let the PM take care of any brewing issues with the customer or deadline or finances or anything else. If you don't have a PM- you need to appoint one immediately. Make him or her solely responsible for the success of the project. And they can't be on the development team - Single thread per brain, remember? - The team will have the best chance of success if it never has to look up or deal with anything but the application itself.

4) Do what you know

Software Developers love to play with new stuff. Lucky for them, the world delivers an endless stream of mysteriously named technologies that are really exciting and fun to play with. Things like Xaml and WPF and Indigo and RoR and REST and SOAP are all very interesting, but if they are peripheral to the core skill set of the team members, then abandon them all immediately.

If your developers are not bona fide experts in the technology you are building your software in, then either pull them off the project, or re-build the project in technologies that they really know.

If this means writing your death march program in Visual Basic 5, then, so be it.
The last thing you need is for your team to be trying to deliver a project armed with technological tools that they don't understand. In the death march, Low Tech is King - pick the one true measure, and deliver that, regardless of 'coolness'. An overwhelming focus on results, rather than method, should be the focus for the team at all times - not playing with weird toys.

5) Heroes

This one goes without saying, but you just can't pull a death march project off unless you have a really, really great team. You need to make sure that everyone has the hero mentality - that the project can't be delivered unless they all give everything they've got.

It's worth noting that these kinds of projects are generally not good places for young, inexperienced kids who are trying to learn something. You need seasoned, skilled developers in order to even have a chance of making it. That means hardworking people who are dependable, and not easily distracted.

If you've got people who just can't cut it, you will need to either do some really aggressive hiring - and be prepared to pay premium cash, because most of the folk you really need to hire will be able to identify a death march project really quickly, and hey, nobody wants a gig like that..., or you'll need to restructure the project to meet the skills you've got, which might simply result in not being able to get there. Failure is never far away...

In short, the most important thing you can have with you on these projects is a stark and often terrifying focus on reality. If you keep your head in the clouds, you'll find that when you emerge, everyone will be screaming and yelling and pointing fingers.

On the other hand, if you carefully monitor what it is you really need to get done, match the application technology with the skills you've got, and you have an amazingly dedicated team, and the planets align just right, it is actually possible to make it out the other end (relatively) unscathed.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

How to rename an XML Node in C#

This was driving me crazy - here's an easy cut and paste solution to not being able to use the DOM to rename a node for lazy developers like me:

public static XmlNode RenameNode (XmlNode node, string namespaceURI,string qualifiedName)
if (node.NodeType == XmlNodeType.Element)
XmlElement oldElement = (XmlElement) node;
XmlElement newElement =
node.OwnerDocument.CreateElement(qualifiedName, namespaceURI);

while (oldElement.HasAttributes)

while (oldElement.HasChildNodes)

if (oldElement.ParentNode != null)
oldElement.ParentNode.ReplaceChild(newElement, oldElement);

return newElement;
return null;

Ahh. That's better :)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

32 Sun-Laps

On Friday the current amorphous collection of cells (and more importantly their digital replication instructions) that make up me passed a milestone: the completion of their 32nd lap around the giant mass of incandescent gas that brings life to the planet Earth.

Or, to put it somewhat more concisely, it was my birthday.

My Dad and my Congo-family had sent me some money in celebration of this momentous event, and despite my inclination to pay some bills, my Wife insisted that I spend it on something for myself. It's pretty rare for me to have some money that I have to spend on fun stuff. You know what? I discovered that if you check out the shops, there are a LOT of things you can buy. I mean a lot. And they all look really cool. So, after much prowling and perusal, I had narrowed my purchasing field down to the following.

a) some kind of digital camera,
b) some kind of musical instrument.

In the end, I decided I couldn't afford to buy the kind of camera I wanted, and yet I still hankered for some kind of digital do-hicky with that fresh Chinese warehouse smell...

So I bought one of these.

A Novation RemoteLE 25 midi USB controller. What's that you ask? Well, I'm not still not quite sure... But when you couple it with a PC, and this software from Sweden, you can play and record nearly every instrument in the world, and several instruments from other worlds. In short, it's the most entertaining thing I've discovered to do with a computer since Boppie's Great Word Chase.

The ability to create unlimited synthesizers, effects racks, samplers, sequencers and drum computers is impressive, but the 'virtual patching' where you flip them all around, and are confronted with a mess of cables, just like real life is absolutely inspired.

I had hoped to be able to post some intriguing and wonderful music, but the sad reality is that I'm still trying to figure out how to make it work. Maybe later.

Lap 33 progresses, accompanied by weird and creepy goblin noises.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Virgin Music Festival, 2006

I have a really sore neck this morning, from the Virgin Music Festival in Baltimore. My wonderful wife bought me two tickets for my birthday, so we found a kind hearted soul who wanted to play with my four kids for the day, and drove up the Beltway into Maryland.

After parking the car about three kilometers away, we walked in the direction of the pulsing drums up to the pimlico race track, where the event was held. I felt a little old, hanging out with these kids, but we managed to sort of fit in.. (maybe?) Twenty Dollars for two beers was a bit steep...Old guy whinging at the bar.

When I was a kid, me and my brothers would be driven around town in our big red family van, and Dad would blast The Who on the crappy cassette player. We grew up singing along to tunes like 'Boris the Spider', 'Magic Bus', and 'Can't Explain'. When I heard that The Who were re-forming and coming to town, I just had to go. To be honest, I thought they would probably suck. I mean, when half of your band is dead, maybe it might be time to pack it in...

Well, I was wrong. When Pete blared out the opening chords to 'Can't Explain', the whole crowd (Not just me) just went completely crazy. It was a pretty amazing show, and the band sounded great - with Zak Starkey (Ringo's son) on the drums, and Pino Palladino replacing John Entwhistle on bass. Sure, these guys looked grey, but they didn't sound it. Although it was a bit amusing hearing Roger Daltrey sing " I hope I die before I get old..."

But the real reason I was there in sunny, smog-ridden Baltimore, was to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers close the show.

Seeing this band live is the most joyous, soul-restoring, incredible thing I have ever experienced. It's better than any drug I've ever tried, and is right up there with the birth of my children for sheer levels of emotional intensity. These guys are some of the most intense, honest and talented musicians in the world today. From the onset, Flea, Chad and John began to carefully improvise and craft this tasty funky groove that rung out across the arena for a few minutes - it sort of reminded me of a jazz gig - and then suddenly they exploded into the killer funk opening of 'Can't Stop', and for the next two hours, I was gone...

The whole show was incredible, but the highlight for me was John's solo in 'Scar Tissue' - I have never heard a guitarist wrack so much emotion out of his instrument. The poignancy of his playing reached out to my very core - like every note was being played just to me. The man is the greatest living rock guitarist, bar none. He can move you to tears.

Some other great moments - Flea's baroque classical Bach piece that sounded like Jaco Pastorius was alive and well ...the bassline from Fugazi's Suggestion making a surprise appearance in the intro to 'Give it Away'...'Me and my Friends', (because all the straight college kids around me had never heard it before, while I just went crazy) and 'Give it Away' itself, because it reminded me of my brothers, (whom I love dearly and miss terribly), and our last adventure to see the band. "Feeling good my brother gonna hug me..."

At the close of the show, Flea walked off on his hands, and I slowly started returning to earth.
It will probably take me a good three or four days though...

The greatest living rock band in the world. Go and see them. Give yourself up to the funk and let the music run your body for a few hours. Just go. That is all.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Negative Data?

Here's a truly special idea - via those crazy Thrashers, I ran into this intriguing article from The Economist, which points to the world of Negative Databases, and how they might be able to help the world of encryption and data security.

In a world where sensitive data gets frequently lost, Data security folk are always trying to come up with the most secure way to store data. And it doesn't take a six year old to tell you that the best way to keep your data safe, is to not have it there in the first place.
"Pshaw!", I hear you say, "You can't store it and not store it at the same time!", and in a way, you'd be right.

But then, in another, more accurate way, you'd be a bit wrong. Consider the following statement:
"All Ravens are Black"
From here, you could make all kinds of crazy assertions about all black things being ravens, but these are incorrect, despite being amusing. What's not incorrect, is that:
"All Non Black-Things are Not Ravens"
Which , it turns out upon some reflection, is true.

So, the concept of a negative database is concerned with storing the absence of the things you'd like to store. If your customer database has a 20 char field for customer name, you'd then store in that table, every single permeation of the alphabet of your choice, up to 20 characters, excepting the names of your clients. Let's call that table Non_Customers.

Let's also say you used the standard 26 letter English Alphabet - that's 560,127,029,342,507,827,200,000 possible combinations of letters that you can cram into that field, based on my amateur permutations math of n!/(n-r)!

Let's be really generous, and say that you have 500,000 client records. So we end up with a table containing 560,127,029,342,507,826,700,000 records, all of which are precisely NOT your customers names.

All of your SELECT statements are now a bit harder to write, but with a little work, you could theoretically piece together the precise data that was missing from the table. And if someone was to find the database table lying around on a laptop, they don't actually have the data. They have everything else!

These numbers are stupidly big. When you consider that a very large database is classed as one with several billions of rows, you can rest assured that the non_customers table isn't going to be working it's way into your stored procedures anytime soon. But, as big as they are, they aren't infinite. Which means that as processing power increases, maybe one day it will be possible to store your entire backup as a secure database shadow...

Page 123 Blog Meme (Washington DC Edition)

Simon has the rules of this blog meme over at Exceptionally Uncaught.

I had to seriously look around for the closest book - the first two I found were "Good Night Goz", which I discounted because it only had eleven pages, and the websters dictionary, which I discounted because it didn't technically have any sentences - (well, no full stops, anyway, which I believe maketh the sentence) So I ended up with:

Hotel George
$$$$ Capitol Hill Modernistic Posters of the first president adorn the hotel, which attracts lobbyists, celebrities and others who dig hip surroundings and proximity to power. See Map P.102.

From Washington DC for Dummies, 3rd Edition. ( I really have no idea how I came to own this book. No, honestly...)

So , yeah - you're all 'it' and that...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I was shocked and stunned when I woke up this morning to hear of Steve Irwin's accident.

I never met Steve personally - to be honest, for a while I thought of him as a bit of a joke - some hyperactive ocker maniac, giving us Aussies a bad name overseas. (I mean, over here, as soon as you say you're from Australia, it's a matter of time before an American asks you if you know the 'Crocodile Hunter'...)

But that all changed the day I took my kids to visit the Australia Zoo, up on the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland. There, built around his parent's original reptile park, is a fantastic and huge zoo that is focused on protecting animals and educating people as to the way the natural world works. My Family and I spent the whole day attending shows and walks, and feeding Elephants and Kangaroos, and by the time I walked out, I felt privileged to have been a part of Steve and Terri's passion and enthusiasm for the natural world, and the way that they managed to manifest such a great environment to share it with everyone.

There's a strange irony about the way he died - I remember my Dad telling me that the only way a Sting-Ray ever killed anyone was by stinging them right in the heart. Plenty of other people have been stung by sting-rays and survived just fine (well, maybe not just fine, there's usually lots of blood and screaming, but it's not like you die or anything...)

I'm sure there are a plenty of people who share in my sadness today - I just thought I'd add my voice to theirs - It's horrible when a family loses a Dad.

Thanks, Mate.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Thoughts on America

Having been living here for a little over three months now, I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about America...

As Lindsay remarks, Americans (in America) are great people. I've met some really kind, smart and wonderfully warm people throughout my travels in America. Because there are so many people here, most Americans aren't easily surprised - so they tend to be pretty direct and open, which is a little different to people back home. I find myself much more inclined to make smalltalk with strangers, which is something I've always found awkward. Of course, there's always that element of being a zillion miles away from home, and extremely low chance of ever running into the same person twice...

America is kind of a selfish place. There's a real 'hands-off' approach to government here. In many ways, its seems that Americans would rather 'Do-It-Yourself' than let the government help you. For instance, there's no Garbage Collection where I live - No local government services to help me with urban services at all. No snow removal, or mowing of grass in public areas. My house has it's own septic tank, and it's own well. If I want any of these services, I have to organise and fund them. If I get sick, the government doesn't care - that's entirely my own problem. I have to pay for everything out of my own pocket.

In a weird way, the American's triumph over the British and everything they stood for, seems to have cast out that element of 'government for the people' that means you get something for your taxes. In fact, other than using the roads and sending my kids to school, I haven't had any interaction with whatever exactly it is that my taxes pay for. So, America is the land of the free. Nobody is telling me what to do. But nobody is helping me, either.

Americans like to get stuff done. They tend not to mess around and have endless meetings about things - it seems that people aren't as focused on efficiency, as much as with action. You know - 'A Half-Formed Plan Today...' The end result of this is that I never find myself feeling ineffective - just busy! Of course, it also means there are a lot of half-thought out processes in place... which means there are lots of fun things to pick on. Maybe that's why The Simpsons has been running for so long...

The commercial opportunity here is unbelievably huge. Because there are so many people, and because nearly everything is left up to the private sector, whatever crazy thing it is that you want to sell, there is almost certainly someone eager to buy it. No matter how stupid or weird or obscure the thing you want to sell is, it's all here!

Perhaps that's the reason people like Seth Godin can talk about marketing all day long - Over here, there is no shortage of inspiration. Seth has also started, which is also full of wonderful things to pick on, and you should check it out.

So, it can be crazy, busy and broken sometimes, and it's certainly nothing like Australia (despite appearing really similar in so many ways). But it's always entertaining, and though some days are still a little head-scratchy, I'm glad I came.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Trolls and Fanboys

I was poring over Slashdot today (as nerds are want to do when they procrastinate),
where I found an interesting article about Microsoft working with Mozilla to make firefox work better with Windows Vista.

In between all the usual rantings and zealotry, there was an interesting idea raised -

"Are Microsoft planning to ship Firefox with Vista?"

Initially, I just Auto-Snorted and read on... But then later I came back to think about it...

You know, if Microsoft (MSFT) is really serious about being seen as a company that's about innovation - one that is about embracing great ideas, this would be the perfect way to leave all those crazy slashdotters gaping slackjawed in their tracks. To regain a bit of the market trust that they lost. To get people to like the company more - maybe the way they feel about other giant companies...

All that anti-trust stuff, lock-in and lock down stuff would just be blown away if they would include, on equal footing, the open-source browser as an option to users of Vista. It's not anti-competitive. No competitor could possibly gain from it (the mozilla foundation is a not-for-profit organisation) and it couldn't possibly harm any user, who was free to choose which browser they liked best. And what a great way to prove that you support web standards, instead of trying to mangle them for your own advantage...

Oh, and it could make the lives of web-developers the world over so much easier. Like this guy.

So, you know, maybe it's not such a crazy idea after all. Come on then Microsoft, lets see you step up and prove it to us once and for all that you really do support innovation, and you're not just trying to lock us all into Internet Explorer - ship Firefox with Vista.

Hey, It might happen...

Monday, August 21, 2006


I decided it was time for a new HTML template - thanks to the folk over at, makers of fine xhtml chicanery, I managed to piece together this kind of web 2.0 something or other thing using the magic of the blogger markup language. Nothing says 'web 2.0' like those wacky diagonal stripes in the header...

I decided I wanted less "busy-ness", and then I decided I had too much whitespace (can you have 'too much' whitespace?) so I added my random coloured squares down the left.

Interestingly, through some awesome mind-reading javascript programming, if you click one of the squares that best matches your mood, it will take you to a web page that allows you some insight into your true self.

Anyway, I'll leave this in place for a while, and see how things go. There's a brand new version of blogger in beta now, so when that arrives, things will probably get shaken up some more...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Friday, August 18, 2006


Well, It's official. Not content with being Australian, American and British, I'm now also an honorary Newfoundlander.

In addition to being some of the friendliest and most fun people I've ever met, Newfoundlanders have a ritual that allows us mere CFA's (Come-From-Aways) to join their ranks as honorary Newfies. The process is called 'The Screech-In' and as far as I can tell, it usually takes place in a bar. George Street, in St John's is the proud holder of the Guinness world record for the highest ratio of bars to street - there are around 45 bars in about 500 feet of road.

The aim of the Screech-In is to prove you can eat, talk and drink like a Newfie. This involves scoffing something horrible ( I had to eat a chunk of Bologna), drinking a shot of 'Screech' - which is a pretty rough Jamaican rum (in earlier times, Newfoundlanders would trade saltfish with the Jamaicans for it) and when asked the tradtiional question: "IsyouaNewfunLanderCock?" You must reply with a brash "IndeedIismefineoldson, and longmayerbigjibdraw!" Then, you need to either kiss a fish, or, if available, kiss a puffin's arse. In my case, it was a slimy cod. Strangely, I already knew for a fact that cods have tongues, because we had just eaten a plate of them...

Mildly embarrassed, (but secretly overjoyed to be a Newfie) I slunk my way back to our table, all the way being congratulated and "Welcomed Home!" by the locals and staff at the bar, and by my colleagues from TOWER Software here in Newfoundland.

Truly, at the end of my short stay in Newfoundland, something about the people dawned on me - these people are happy to be where they are. They don't brag about their place being "the greatest country in the world", or try to convince you to stay there - because it's not often great - sometimes it's downright horrible. And yet, they're not leaving. They're part of the the place. Being the summertime, I met lots of Newfoundlanders who were on vacation - at home. And that there, is a sort of a greatness all it's own.

Its such a stark contrast to the US, where everyone seems mobile in some way - always working on going somewhere else, be it for business, or vacation, or on a perpetual metaphorical journey to improve their current social status. Or maybe it's just that the megalopolis on the east coast is so heavily developed, that people aren't quite sure exactly where their place is. Whatever it is, I was definitely a little melancholy to fly out of St Johns tonight.

If you ever get the chance, make sure you come to Newfoundland in the summertime.

But uh, Just make sure there aren't any puffins aboot when you come for that bar, eh?...

Thursday, August 17, 2006


On those languid hot summer days, I’d listen to the children shriek with mock annoyance, recalling the delightful pangs of irritated adults carried from my own childhood. The sun was hot, and it beat down on the tin roof of the Dalmeny House known to us as ‘Sea Eagles’.

This place was as defining for me as holidays themselves. Sand in floorboard cracks, abandoned hand-me-down china and an expanse of green lawn strewn with eucalypt twigs that splayed awkwardly, giving way to the gravel that would hurt your toes on the way to the ever present even blue of the Pacific ocean.

My major focus should probably have been on re-capturing the exuberance of a forgotten summertime with my children. In truth, it was on surfing.

My mind was filled with transient snapshots of waves, frozen toppling into clear blue crystal arcs, or foaming lash-like streaks of spray blown up from the perfect off-shore winds. My mission that week was to catch another wave. It didn’t matter how big it was, or what shape it was – I just wanted to get out there and play with them, to capture more and more of these transcendent beautiful moments where geometry and wind and power and water were part of me. Paddling out, arms aching, chafed, burnt. Just one more…

Unfortunately, I couldn’t do that all day. The Australian sun was relentless, so I retreated back to the house. I picked up a book and collapsed into the couch in one motion. At some point in my life, books just disappeared. I’d forgotten the lure of a good book. The busy, chaotic, pseudo bureaucratic process of building a family, coupled with a demanding job had left me with so little time, that it wasn’t a very common occurrence to find myself holding a book of any kind, unless I was in the process of cleaning up someone else’s mess.

Almost reflexively, I began to read. The book was called ‘The Shipping News’, and it was written by a lady called E.Annie Proulx. The tale that unfolded from between my wet hands was intriguing, and frostbitten and sea-faring. It was Salty and Cold, and foul and enamoring and it captured my attention for nearly all the non surfing time I could find that week.

At one point, halfway through the novel, as I flopped down onto the ugly purple single bed in the blue bedroom, I distinctly remember exclaiming aloud:

“Seriously - Who in their right mind would ever go to Newfoundland?”

You know, sometimes the universe just sees you coming.

I’m writing these words from a Bed and Breakfast in St John’s, the largest city in Newfoundland.

I think today may be one of those days that are properly termed by locals to be ‘Sucker Days’ – The sun was toasty warm and shining beautifully off the harbor, the air was crisp and clear, and amidst it all, the strangest thing happened to me – I became completely smitten with the place.

Having spent the day at work, I spent the evening wandering around, cursing my broken camera, and trying to retain in my mind pictures of tiny boats streaming through the narrows, returning laden with cod, and ramshackle fishing huts, that look like ancient storks rising out of the water, fading paint revealing layers of fading paint. The hokey, cozy multicoloured townhouses of the streets of St John’s stretched out along the background of Signal Hill, and the haze from the Atlantic.

People who live in Newfoundland really live here. Sure they love to complain, and they’ll bitch and moan incessantly about it being too hot, like today (20 degrees), or having to shovel 4 feet of snow for a freezing hour in the dark at five in the morning, but only very rarely do they actually leave. As one local told me –

“I think we’re a bit like weeds growing on the rock – we have to put down really deep roots.”

But that’s not to say the people here are some kind of sheltered yokel-halfwits – they’re excellent, smart, well educated folk, who are really part of the natural place they live in. The entire attitude of the people here is different – honest. Coming from DC, it’s as refreshing as the sea spray that blows in on the west wind.

And in a way, there are a lot of parallels between that day and this one – Both of them have reminded me that living in the moment, as a creature of your surroundings – in harmony with the habitat in which you find yourself - is frequently the key to finding those golden little moments of serenity.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Harsher than thou...

I don't know about you. But when I read my web fiction, I'm looking for one thing.

And that one thing is neo-gothic post modern thriller, mystery action stories with undertones of historical religious zealotry, and slight Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy twinges that collide with Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a very Frank Miller, existential, harsh metropolitan, red, black, white and steel kind of way.

So naturally, I'm pretty glad that Simon started writing Harsher Light: The Story of Dante Harsher.

I wonder if Tornado Glory will get to make an appearance...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Could you, would you, with a goat?

I think that Mikal's post on 'A day at the shooting range' might have angered my Inner Hippy.

Not that I want to prolong any talk of politics, but...

You know how people often come out as 'politically opposed' to things, when in reality, they're frightened of them?

(Of course, I'm generalizing, but most of the prejudiced xenophobic or pro-life or otherwise moralising politics seems to always stem from a fear of strangers, or homos, or God, or whatever...)

Most of the time I can recognise that. And I'm able to set whatever personal prejudices I have aside and try to deal with the facts alone. But on the gun front, I'm just like the Fred Niles and Rush Limbaughs of the world, in the sense that my fear overcomes my judgment. Truth be told, I find the concept of applying human ingenuity and brilliance in engineering towards the 'science' of killing people to be absolutely terrifying.

I'm afraid of guns. I'm also afraid of Death Adders. (To be honest, I'm less afraid of Death Adders, because they haven't been engineered by people specifically for the purpose of killing.) I'm afraid of these things because I don't like things that can kill me. I don't want to be shot, nor do I want my friends or family, or, come to think of it, anyone to be shot.

Any argument you may have with me on guns, or gun control needs to take into account that:
"I do not like them, Sam-I-Am. I do not LIKE things that go Blam!"
And as a result, I simply can't have a rational, academic discussion about the topic, any more than the Pope could have a truly subjective argument about atheism.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Free Wiki: The Director's Cut

Dean over at Thrasherville has been chronicling the story of TOWER Software's SDK wiki, which has, as of today, returned to the fold as being available to all (and more importantly, indexed by everyone's second brain.)

The underlying principle of a wiki is that it is quick to publish. The word "Wiki-wiki", for which the modern wiki is named, means 'hurry-quick' in Hawaiian. (Not surprisingly, wikipedia has a great article on the subject...)

When you create or edit a wiki article, there are no approvals, no hoops or editors involved - any change made is immediately visible to all visitors to the site. This very feature is what makes a wiki so scary, and so extremely valuable.

You see, despite the fact that people invented bureaucracy, most people hate it. If I have to fill in a form just so, and then wait for a human to approve/edit/reject my article, chances are high that I just won't bother. Which means that everyone misses out on the knowledge I keep in my head. On the other hand, if I make it too easy to publish something, there's a risk that my valuable content could be vandalised, or plain wrong.

From a corporate perspective, having a publicly available wiki is also a double edged sword. Current and accurate information provided on demand is a must for any modern technology business - and yet misinformation, deliberate or otherwise could serve to do more harm than good. These were precisely the challenges that TOWER's management team were faced with in developing the SDK wiki. You can read more about those challenges, and how they were handled over at Dean and Paula's blog. (Although I may have spoiled the ending, I can't tell it anywhere near as well..)

Meanwhile, if you'd like to explore the world of wiki without fear of humiliation, you should check out Tiddlywiki.

Tiddlywiki is a self contained, indexed, searchable, taggable and portable personal wiki that fits in a single HTML file. You can even set up your own one-folk folksonomy!

I use it for tracking my projects, recording meetings and contacts, and it's incredibly useful.
You can download your own copy right here by right clicking this link and choosing "Save Link as".

Now that's about as quick as you can get.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Crowd Sauce?

Okay, I know you're not supposed to click on your own ads, but I found this link to Cambrian House quite intriguing.

Remember those guys who bought Mikal lunch? well, this is them, so they obviously have a pretty smart marketing team. It turns out that they also have a pretty neat idea, too. Or rather than just one, about a squillion...

You know, If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me:
"Hey, you're a computer nerd. You know what would be really cool?
[insert some random weird person specific software idea]

Now I'm sure that would make you a million dollars!"
Well, then I'd have at least seven dollars. Which isn't really that impressive, but when you consider that there are at least 3 hundred thousand computer nerds out there, each with at least seven different [insert some random weird person specific software idea], Then that old longtail large number theory starts to kick in...

Cambrian House are offering a battle ground where ideas can play off against each other, and hopefully, the best ones will win. They'll then be built by enterprising developers, and sold in return for profit, which goes back to the developers. This is a cool idea, and the idea warz page, where you can see exactly what's winning (and more entertainingly, what's not) is an endless source of fun. Check it out.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Crawfish, Cowboys, and the Northern Lands

Well, it's been a few weeks since my family and I arrived here in America - during this time, so much stuff has happened, and I just haven't had much time for updates. So, here's the highlights of the last few weeks as they stick in my head. I'll try harder to post regularly, but I'm not making any promises...

My family settles into our new home for the next few years- an old, almost condemmned vinyl siding house with a faint smell of mold, and a backyard the size of a regulation soccer field, surrounded by giant green maple,oak and cherry trees.

Yes, That's the lawnmower. I already hate it.

I remember what it was like to move out of home, with borrowed furniture, mattresses on the floor, and never quite being able to find the exact implement you want to cook with. Our house is still very sparse, and has the unique, University-Student-two-minute-noodle Group House feel.

Home, sweet home.

Two Australian Software consultants walk into a crawfish bar in Corpus Christi, Texas. There, they are treated to an enormous mountain of shrimp and crawfish, while fat american cowboys complete with ten gallon hats and six shooters sing terrible karaoke to all time country and western hits. Fortunately, the beer was the "coldest in america", and before long they were singing along too...

My wife Alison and I discover exactly how expensive it is to maintain a life in America, and pay for the debts of our old life in Australia. All of our conversations consist of one of us being terribly disheartened and the other one trying to point out that it's not too bad. Roles are frequently reversed...

We discover that it's nearly impossible to live in Northern Virginia without a car. The car we were going to purchase is caught up in some beaucratic process involving the transtition of a Motor Vehicle title from Florida to Virginia, and is still unable to be registered in Virginia. I sneak out in it at night, unregistered, unlicensed, and uninsured to buy groceries in the 'stealth minivan'. I feel like a fugitive. (So far, I've resisted the temptation to join a gang...)

The quest for some bread that doesn't taste like raisin toast with the raisins removed continues. Americans seem to put way too much sugar in their bread.The grocery store only has about a hundred differrent varieties of bread, so I figure we have about another 92 possible chances.
And, so life over here continues to entertain, surprise and baffle us.