Friday before 3 Day Weekend

Yesterday, Matt noted that companies should give off the Friday before a 3 day weekend instead of the Monday. So, instead of Saturday, Sunday, Monday, you’d have Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

His reasoning is that the Friday before a 3 day weekend is always, uh, less productive because you’re anticipating the 3 day weekend. I think he’s right. Then again, that less productiveness might just shift to Thursday, but it’d be worth a try.

Ye Olde == vs. Equals, with Strings

In this tip you saw that the only safe way to test that Strings have the same value is with the equals() method. If you work with Strings that have the same value, then it might be worth interning them into the constants pool. That way you can make a quicker check using the == operator. In any case, you can see that you have to be careful before deciding to use == to check equivalence.

This months Sun’s Java-spam (or whatever it’s called) has an article on == and .equals for String. Here’s a tip: if you’re going to be interviewing for a job, read this and understand it.

Collaborative Tools at Work

eWeek has an interesting article (“Finding Middle Ground in Office Use of Collaboration Tools”) that lists several collaborative, bottom-up software tools. The approach is interesting because it takes on two perspectives: (1.) the IT department, who’s not controlling the installation and use of these things (hence, “bottom-up” instead of “top-down”), and, (2.) the end users (the “bottom,” as it were) who are installing and using these applications.

As most of you, dear readers, know I’m big time into wiki’s, weblogs, and syndication (RSS) at work. It’s nice to see an uptick in the trend of mainstream trade rags all but endorsing their use.

Stumbling Across some Leibniz

What reason, indeed? I love it when I stumble on philosophy stuff. Philosophy — when I studied it in school, at least — is easier than writing code, since each time you not only get to come up with the design and implementation, but also the requirements. It’s like you’re your own end-user, architect, and developer wrapped into one.

Of course, that’s the reason so many people hated (and hate) it: all that relativism (or the possibility thereof) drives many people completely nuts and red in the face.

It’s kind of turned out to be the same way in software development. But, hey! Instead of you paying them, they pay you!

Links: Offshoring Expectations Mature, SAP Agile-ish, Lesko

  • Successful Offshoring Takes Work
    : “But investors must negotiate a thicket of unstable government policies, underdeveloped financial markets and shaky infrastructure in much of the world, participants at the International Finance Corporation Global Technology Conference said. ‘You have to be willing to be intrusive in these places in ways you don’t have to in Arizona.'”
  • Eclipse Getting Big: “use of the Eclipse IDE as a primary development environment grew 90 percent in North America, 70 percent in the Asia Pacific region and 60 percent in EMEA. Overall, on average the use of Eclipse grew more than 75 percent across the three regions.”
  • SAP on User Involvement in Development:

    SAP’s new technique is to gather as much input from different groups as possible, at the earliest stages of development, Plattner said.

    “We use a multistage, multitier approach. We tried to get some outside input, write some scenarios, build a mock-up — a visual markup of what we want to do,” he said.

    “We get some sense of what is possible, what is not possible, and then we have enough stuff to build a real prototype. That’s working.”

    This type of development isn’t really so startling, but it is startling (and encouraging) to hear someone as big as SAP talking in this way.

  • Matthew Lesko interview:

    “People are so unhappy working for large organizations, because, really, they don’t care,” Lesko said. “When you have your own thing, you can paint the world your way — the way you always wished the world was.”

    (Via the Fast Company blog.)

Finished Free Prize Inside

I finished up Free Prize Inside last night. Overall, like the Amazon rating and all the marketing/brand people say, it’s a good book: it has interesting, useful ideas; it’s short and to the point; it’s well written; and it doesn’t feel like a waste to have read it.

The footnotes section is fun too — there’s an online addendum to the footnotes, a sort of “living footnotes” that I haven’t read. Footnotes are like pre-cursors to blogs: outgoing links from the book, and slightly on/off topic comments about the “meat” of the book.

Here’s some interesting quotes, excerpts, etc.:

  • “The free prize is the element that transcends the utility of the original idea and adds a special, unique element worth paying extra for, worth commenting on.”
  • On product differentiation:

    Differentiation is the act of making your products different from the competition (and each other) so that people pick you. But differentiation is selfish. It assumes that people are interested enough in your field to seek you out, to compare the options and to make a smart choice.

    The implication, obviously, being that people aren’t all those thing.

  • A free prize in cake mixes:

    Betty Crocker was unable to convert housewives to cake mixes until they left out the powdered egg from the mix. As soon as the mix did less — you had to add your own egg — women embraced the idea of saving some of the hassle of baking. The free prize inside the cake mix was the fact that you still felt like you were being a good housewife, because you did more than just stir up the mix.

  • “If people aren’t blown away, they won’t talk about [your product/service/etc]. If they don’t talk about it, it doesn’t spread fast enough to help you grow.”
  • “The time to start is now. Hey, you’re going to go to work anyway. Why not do something great while you’re there!”

The chapter on championing is, perhaps, the most useful in the whole book. It’s hard to summarize it, but it really does boil down to what you’d expect a “champion” to be.

In the software industry, companies occasionally have evangelists whose primary job is to hype the product in the field; usually, it’s large, successful, cult companies that have these (Microsoft, Sun, Apple?). Being a champion sounds like an inner-company version of an evangelist.

Make the Implicit Explicit

I broke one of my own suggestions for doing software better last week: always make the implicit explicit. As with most large companies,
we’re spending time
integrating our product with other products. To further that along, we
branched mainline to do the first cut of integrating with a new
framework, an internal SDK.

Of course, with most large integration efforts, it’s expected that
things will be broken for awhile and that we’ll need to fix all the
broken integration points before working on the new features. So, at
the beginning of this week, we happily merged the branch back into
mainline. And, of course, many things are broken: they need to be
converted to the new framework.

However, everyone in the team wasn’t expecting this broken-ness to
the degree that we (the branch people) thought acceptable. Thus, after
having merged everything in, there was a collective “uh…everything
is broken” type of response.

We’d just assumed everyone would know, and be ready, for that. It
was implicit in the whole process (to us, at least). What we
should have done is make it extremely explicit before we merged back

Anyhow, lesson learned…yet again ;>

This Whole Internet Thing Just Might Make Money

The Interactive Advertising Bureau said Monday that online ad sales reached almost $2.3 billion in the first quarter of 2004, the highest three-month total since the group began tracking the sector in 1996.

[…]Many researchers have already predicted strong years ahead for the Web ad space. eMarketer expects U.S. online ad sales to reach $8.4 billion for 2004, an increase of more than 15 percent from last year, and higher than the 2000 peak of $8.1 billion.

“Online ad sales set record-breaking pace”

Recently, there’s been an Internet news trend of that goes something like “wow, this whole internet thing can really make money.” Much of the “bubble” hype is looking like it was true, just much slower than predicted. I guess there’s something of a lesson here: even Internet time is slow. That is, wide-spread (and thus, very profitable) adoption of innovation, esp. high-tech, takes awhile.

(I’m sure there’s some Crossing the Chasm or Innovator’s Dilemma tie in here, but I haven’t read either of those.)