[DrunkAndRetired.com Podcast] Episode 11 – Large Teams, Shitting the Field, Perfectionist Coders

A team of 100+ developers will generally develop a system so complicated it could only have been developed by a team of 100+ developers. —Darren Hobbs

In this episode, we talk with Darren Hobbs about working with a large (100+) pool of programmers on a project. And, of course, there’s some poop-jokes: gotta have that.

Thanks go out again to Zane for letting us host the MP3s on the Liquid Labs servers.

(This episode edited by Coté.)

[DrunkAndRetired.com Podcast] Episode 10 – Re: Learning from Open Source

This week, we’re givin’ you two episodes! In the second one, we talk with Matt Ray and get some feedback and corrections about last week’s show, Learning from Open Source. Charles also confesses how much he likes Mozilla Suite.

Special guest stars: Super JP and Chip.

(This episode edited by Coté.)

[DrunkAndRetired.com Podcast] Episode 09 – What Sucks About Ruby on Rails

In this episode we talk more about the problems with Ruby on Rails, along with some discusion of extending Xerces to get some basic JavaScript stuff tested.

Feel free to send feedback to the comments below, or email either audio recordings or comments.

Thanks to Zane Rockenbaugh of Liquid Labs for hosting the MP3s for us with his mega-pipe to the ‘net.

(This episode was edited by Charles.)

Free Ads in Podcast

Baus’s latest post got me thinking (as seems to happen daily) about good enough/indie programming. One problem, of course is marketing your services/software. Blogs, of course, work wonderfully if you can catch the right eye (see Whichard’s Blogging Theory).

To that end, it got me thinking that I should experiment with putting ads in the podcast. In addition to my pure curiosity at how it’d work out, there’s also some altruistic feelings of helping people out by giving them a chance to self-market.

So, unless Charles completely rebels at the idea, I’d invite anyone who wants to record a short 10-30 second ad to send the MP3 along.

The ad can be for anything: software your making, your website, services you have to offer, something about the company you work at, or just purely ego thing where you say “I rule!”. Really, think of it as more a free-form audio submission than an ad: ads would just be a sub-set of the acceptable submissions. The intent is to get the podcat linked into the rest of my online life: there’s no “hard links” in audio, but ads can serve as a sort of connection between the podcast and other nodes in the network.

If we should actually get any submissions, here’s how it’ll go and some more info:

  • We’ll insert the ad at the end of the show. That way, listeners can stop listening if they want to. I care about the listeners more than my curiosity for this experiment and the desire to help folks self-market.
  • If I don’t know you (in-person or online), I’m not going to put the ad in…unless you turn out to be swanky.
  • We’ll probably only have 30-60 seconds of ads, so if we get a bunch of short ones, we’ll be able to put in more.
  • We don’t have that many listeners…
  • …but we probably have a pretty niche demographic of tech people.
  • We might decide not to do it after all, esp. if the ads are shitty.
  • But, hey, it’s free, so fuck off if you don’t like the above ;>

So, any takers?

[DrunkAndRetired.com Podcast] Episode 08 – Learning from Open Source

In this episode, we spend some time figuring out how commercial software could benefit from applying open source software development process(es) (as we understand them) to commercial software development. Along the way, of course, we try to figure out why such software doesn’t already do it that way, and what might prevent them from changing.

[DrunkAndRetired.com Podcast] Episode 07 – Driving, Hosting, Indie Programmer


This one is what you might call the “shootin’ the shit” episode
. Nonetheless, it’s all the excitement you’ve come to expect. In particular, you’ll want to check out the last 2 minutes for a real hoot-a-nany.

(This episode edited by Charles.)

More Google Enterprise Apps On the Way; Search Behind the Firewall

In a sort of pre-announce, pre-announce, Schmidt said:

The business is growing very quickly. We’ve added all these new features. It makes sense now to just keep adding more Google to the Google-in-a-box. So a reasonable expectation is that more and more of what’s on Google will be available in the blue box. And that’ll keep them busy for years. Because when you do that inside of a company, you have a higher level of security and privacy and all that stuff. … Imagine the evolution of this product line. It gets very interesting. Without pre-announcing anything, it seems like a no-brainer. You have lots of these things sitting around inside all these guys’ networks. Just think of the strategic value of that to Google.

That’d be exciting.

Back in Jan. or Feb., thanks to an internal weblog post I made and an eager to help out VP at work, we got ourselves a Google mini at work. So far, it’s been fantastic. People send in emails all the time saying how much they like and use the search. Having search behind the firewall, real, works-out-of-the-box search is a sort of major event for an intranet.

With Search, Unstructured Intranets are OK

In a company as large as mine, there’s 100,000’s of web pages on the intranet (and 100,000’s more that I filter out of the search). With that many documents, and so many people, it’s difficult for people to add lots of helpful structure to all those URLs. Sure, there are plenty of systems that are highly structured (like project pages), but anyone/team can start up a web server, and often do, to host any sort of document. Worse, once you setup a structured page, it’s care and feeding often go by the way side: internal documents are always a much lower priority than external releases, i.e., money-makers.

From this, we might derive Coté’s Theory of Intranet Content, which goes: “you’ll never be able to structure everything effectively, so you might as well not try…very hard.” Therefore, unless you have search to layer over all that, it’s impossible to find what you want as quickly as you want. Thus, you need search. Q.E.D.

The Google mini has been the answer to that. Indeed, as the theory hint at, it almost makes all the structured sites (and apps we use to create them) kind of gratuitous. Just like GMail, Bloomba, or LookOut: once you add a search box to your email, all those folders aren’t really needed. (At best, folders are just 1-1 tags…but, you want 1-many tag-as-folders, of course.) Once you don’t need folders — because you have search — you don’t really need structure.

Simplifying the Intranet

Of course, some structure is required to simply make creating and hosting content as easy as possible. You need a light content management system. So far, in my opinion, the answer to that light-CMS has is to use wiki’s and optionally,
weblogs*. With a wiki, creating a document is as easy as clicking “Edit This Page.” And a weblog has an inherent stream of content that’s a natural fit for people’s desire to get streams of content about relevant topics/people. Once you add search to that mix, you just about solve all your Enterprise intranet problems:

  • Employees/users can easily/quickly create documents on the wiki.
  • Because the documents are on the wiki, documents can easily refer/link to each other.
  • Because wikis are open, those documents are instantly available to anyone who wants to read them — no more documents being locked up and lost in the email blackhole.
  • Instead of using email lists, or long CC:’s to broadcast out information, have discussions, innovate, or just get people talking to each other, everyone simply broadcasts via their weblog.
  • Bonus Feature: because the wiki, search, and blogs are all web applications, people don’t need to install anything on their desktop except a web browser. Meaning you don’t have upgrade worries, security problems, and (following the Google and open source wiki pricing models) a very simple pricing scheme to follow.
  • Bonus Feature: though most wikis, blogs, and search don’t waste time worrying about internal DRM (“only team A can see these pages, while team B and team C can see these pages, along with person X.”), you can still quickly do information management/deletion when you need to. Because all these services are centralized, if you want to go and delete some sensitive document, you just go into each system and delete it. Compare this to hunting down a sensitive document that needs to be virtually-shredded in every employees inbox, desktop, USB thumb-drive, home computer, etc.
  • Bonus Feature: linked to the previous point, there’s better, even instant, “employee access to data life-cycle management”; that is, when an employee quits, you want to pull all access to sensitive data. In the case of all these web apps, the employee never really downloads any thing, everything is on the intranet. So, to cut off their access to all that info, you just cut off their intranet access.

A few of those points are a bit forced, but I think you get the idea.

(As I’ve posted before, my experience with weblogs behind the fire-wall hasn’t been a huge success quantity wise, but quality wise it’s been great: if it weren’t for the weblogs, we wouldn’t have gotten the Google mini. It’s taken several years for the wiki to really become a core part of the groups I work in, and I suspect the same will be true for weblogs.)

More Blue Box Applications

Of course, what’s even more exciting about the above quote is the promise of having more Google apps available behind the firewall.

First off, we’d want GMail. No one really likes Outlook/Exchange, but everyone uses it (probably because everyone has those big Microsoft site licenses). As many people have noted, if you just throw in Calendaring that works as well as Outlook/Exchange, you’d have the full Email/Calendaring package that you need. And if the Google story continues to be the same, it’ll be both cheaper and more simple than Outlook/Exchange.

Google Groups would be another nice thing to have. There are tons of email lists behind the firewall, and if you use Outlook/Exchange, there’s really no good way to say, “put the archives of this lists on a web page so everyone can read/search them.” Not to mention the fact that once you reach those damn email storage quotas, you’re forced to start blowing away all those emails with all that important info in them that you’ve been trying to save.

And, of course, there’s Blogger.

Indeed, one could see that Google would simply create a “Collab Blue Box” that just loaded all those things together, with search. And, if they priced it as well as they do the Google mini, it’d sure be an intranet app killer. Even Outlook/Exchange if they could get a story that all the check-signers and IT guys believe in enough to make the switch.

[DrunkAndRetired.com Podcast] Episode 06 – The Outtakes

As explained in this episode, we didn’t get together to record this week, so I put together several outtakes and (mostly) unused recordings we had. It’s all just funny-business, no real software this time. Thankfully for those who don’t too much doofusin’, it’s just under 14 minutes.

In addition to the DrunkAndRetired PodCast, we’re planning a whole new format and show with Zane, so look for that soon…along with next week’s DrunkAndRetired podcast episode, that’ll be zero seven (07).

This episode was edited by Coté.

[DrunkAndRetired.com Podcast] Episode 05 – Men’s Liberation, IDE’s, DSL’s

In Episode 05 we talk about IDE’s, DSL’s, more code crap, and have plenty of refreshingly brillent banter. It’s what you’ve come to expect from the Coté & Charles DrunkAndRetired.com podcast.

Next week, we finally get back to discussing web applications with special (and future?) guest Zane.

This episode was edited by Mr. Charles Lowell.

“Disclaimer: This post was written under the influence of Gin and Tonic and air travel.”

Our man James “monkchips” Governor gives a hefty dose of G&T induced thinking to episode 04:

But Coté is funny when writing so i figured i should check out Cote and Charles: He’s Burger, Web Apps Suck. Of course i didn’t listen to the first three episodes so who knows if they were any good. But episode 4 is spot on. Scatalogical humour always gets me right in the funny bone. Good work guys.

And, aparantly, we have a cliff-hanger to reveal what the ideal web app framework would be like. Jesus, the presure is killing me; you might spot me next in South Africa.

We always enjoy in-coming links here at DrunkAndRetired.com. They simply can’t be gin-ore’ed. So thanks to James. We’ll have to send you a shirt or something ;>

[DrunkAndRetired.com Podcast] Episode 04 – He’s Burger, Web Apps Suck

Here’s episode 04 of the Drunk & Retired podcast. As usual, it’s Charles (in Finland) and I (in Austin) talking about this and that.

The quality of this recording is much better as I finally figured out how to get Audio Hijack to record Skype without all that soundflower virtual cable crap. You just use a voice over effect, recording Skype, and you get not only Charle’s voice, but mine too. But, no one care about all that shit.

Have fun listenin’!

Previous Episodes:
01
02, 03, 04.

The Bottom vs. the Top: Los Alamos Blog and Congress

Stories like this are wonderful microcosm of any organization. A Los Alamos employee starts a public weblog, people start writing and sending in complaints, all the type A, “leaders” in congress get all upset and start saying things like, “this all a bunch of griping!” As always, little Ricky must be thinking, mom an dad just aren’t listening.

From this, we can draw a useful, tactical pattern for bottom up action in any organization: if you complain, those at the top will label you as a whiner, and use that as an ad hominem attack against all your efforts.

That is, when you’re trying to do hard bottom up change (as opposed to change coming down from the top, e.g., congress-people, CEOs, Popes, etc.), unless you’re supra-lucky, the people at the top will resist with any means possible. If you complain about things — even justifiably from your perspective — the people at the top will characterize you as a broody spaz, and thus, no one who deserves listening to.

In most cases, people at the top are smart, energetic, full-on type-A people. Their view, learned from being that way and being rewarded with the success of being at the top, is that if you want something — change — you just go and fucking do it, no holds barred, Ashley. You don’t sit there and whine that you can’t get what you want. If you can’t get it in your organization, you go and get a new job, God damn it.

Obviously, not all top-people are like this, but there certainly is more of this operational-think at the top than the bottom.

So, what’s a bottom-feeder to do: the fact that they’re at the bottom, the very fact that there is a bottom, is often endemic of the powerlessness they actually have. That said, faith in that powerless mind-set of the bottom is often such in organizations that they’re not actively defending against it. If the bottom-feeders suddenly get active, if they’re fast and loud enough, the top will get effected.

Now, of course, I’d much rather operate in organizations where getting shit done doesn’t have to be cast in fighting-metaphors. But that’s the way it is sometimes…as the top-folk would probably be happy to remind me with a smile

[DrunkAndRetired.com Podcast] Episode 03: Finland, Ruby on Rails, DBs

Here’s the 3rd episode of The Drunk & Retired Variety Show (aka “podcast”), featuring Mr. Charles Lowell and yours truely again.

The recording quality is piss-poor. But, whatever, you know you’ll still like it…despite all the little pops and pips…and dog barking.

Previous episodes:

Episode 01
&
Episode 02.

No Weblog, No Trust

I was searching for info on someone today, just doing a typical Google search of their name, and I didn’t really find anything except a few quotes from some trade rags and some obvious “false-positives.”

It re-occured to me that, when it comes to “experts” or other authority figures, I don’t really “trust” any of them if they don’t have a weblog…usually that shows up on the first page of a Google search for them.

If you’re going to make a living being an expert, it’s time to get a weblog. All you have to do it put up links to start with. That’ll be enough. For the full-blown, bust-out, check out old-school consultant/experto tompeters!, he seems to have really jumped in head first.

Whichard’s Blogging Theorem

I’m always happy to see someone’s company-blogging light bulb off, especially in such detail.

Everyone knows that Brandon likes the weblogs, company-internal and otherwise. After having our internal blogs at BMC for awhile (1, 2), and getting some positive results from them, he came up with what I call Whichard’s Bloggin Theorem:

The number of people who read a weblog matters much less than who reads a weblog.

Put one way, in addition to all the benefits Marion points out, blogs are a supra-effective tool for internal marketing. And if you don’t think that’s important, you must work for the perfect company.

I’m an instant-evangelist for anything I like — booze, blogs, Apple products, etc. — so I tell everyone at work about our internal blogs: not just about them, but that they need to post to them. Many of them have the same reaction: “Yeah, I created an account. But only a couple people seem to post to them.”

The Blackhole

There’s either one of two perceptions: (1.) it’s not worth it posting to the blogs, or, (2.) the blogs are just the toy of a select groups of people. But then, Whichard’s Blogging Theorem comes in, and all bets are off.

There’re several high-level people who read the blogs, all NewsGator’ed up to suck down the RSS feeds every 30-60 minutes. If an idea starts at the bottom, it can instantly get high up into the management stratosphere.

We call this effect “The Blackhole.” You know, there’s all those movies where you can leap countless light years in space by zipping through a blackhole or wormhole (the second would probably be better, but the first is what’s stuck).

Linking to the New

But, back to internal marketing. In hooking up all these types of things at work — wiki, blog, Google mini powered search — I’ve found that the most effective way to advertise it’s presence is to somehow broadcast, essentially, ads into the traditional internal collab-space: email lists, the intranet site, etc.

That’s an obvious rule-of-thumb, but the take-away is that the early majority needs a bridge to new collab-applications. You can’t ask/expect all those people to jump a huge chasm between existing apps and new apps: you’ve gotta connect them together with a few links.

The problem with that, of course, is that different people often control the two ends of the bridge. The new stuff is usually all DIY: someone had a spare server, so they just install a wiki, a blog, or a build/development site. These folks don’t have access to dump links in all those traditional sites.

There seems to be a boot-strapping problem, as ever. Then again, if you’re in this sport, why not test the “theory of just asking,” and fire off an email or phone call?

[DrunkAndRetired.com Podcast] Episode 02: The Life Agile, Part 2

(Click here to download/listen to the podcast.)

There’s (above) the second episode for the old podcast. It’s the rest of Charles and I talking about Agile, software stuff, all girded by his time at ThoughtWorks. I think there’s some more StarControl sounds too…and dog barking.

You know you’ve been hittin’ reload on this page just waiting for this second episode!

[DrunkAndRetired.com Podcast] Episode 01: The Life Agile, Part 1

(Click Here to Download the Podcast)

I’ve finally put together the first Drunk and Retired podcast. This is part one of some back porch-chattin’ with my good friend, Charles Lowell about his time at ThoughtWorks, agile thinking, Star Control, and a few other things. It’s about 1/2 an hour, and you know you’ll love it!

Update: also, of course, the RSS feed contains an enclosure for this episode. So, you can just add the URL http://feeds.feedburner.com/cote to iPodder, or whatever podcast aggregator you use.

Yahoo! 360

Thanks to the gracious Charlene Li, I got an invite to Yahoo! 360. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s Yahoo! social-net/blog/collab/etc. thing.

I invited most everyone in my address book that I thought would be interested, but if I missed you, just send me an email or leave a comment.

You can see my Y! 360 page at http://360.yahoo.com/bushwald.

(No doubt, and as promised to Charlene, I’ll write-up more as I get a better feel for it.)

Re: LinkedIn Job Posting

To flesh out my
LinkedIn job posting experiment
, I put up a free want-ad
with the same description on craigslist.com
.

So far, my notes on this whole experiment are:

  • After posting the LinkedIn want-ad, I immediately got a call (a
    phone-call!) from a recruiter. I hadn’t posted a phone number, so
    he must have had some BMC directory number. Man, what’s the deal
    with recruiters. They’re, like, totally annoying.
  • The night I posted the LinkedIn want-ad, I got an email from a
    guy who basically said, “I’m not interested in the job you posted,
    but I’m interested in ‘getting in’ at BMC.” Hmmm… OK.
  • After posting the
    craigslist.com listing
    I got more than 10 applicants in a
    day
    . I’ve forwarded them all the applicable (some wanted to be
    part-time, not full-time, etc.) ones to the hiring manager. The
    quality seemed to range from “just out of school” to “long time
    coder.”

In summary… LinkedIn: 0 useful responses 2 days. craigslist.com:
10 useful responses in 1 days. (a few days after posting it, I’ve gotten
20 applicants from craiglist and nothing else from LinkedIn.com)

Quality of Applicants

Now, I have no idea about the quality of applicants from the craigslist
listing
, but the quantity is certainly better than LinkedIn’s
0. We’ll have to see if/once we get any of them in here.

The person who contacted me through LinkedIn (who wasn’t interested
in the actual position, just establishing contact with a BMC person)
seemed well seasoned from his profile. But, again, he wasn’t applying
for the job I’d posted, so his application didn’t score points for
LinkedIn.

Past experience with craigslist.com

We got one of our current employees from another craigslist.com
want-ad I put up last summer. She doesn’t work in my group, but from
what I know, her quality turned out to be quite good.

Cost: $95 vs. free

The post I made to LinkedIn was free ’cause I slipped in right
under the wire of the free period for job postings. It’s since gone
up to $95/30 days.

The post I made to craigslist.com, since I was posting to Austin,
was free, as always.

Hypothesis: craigslist.com is better

I’m going to predict that craiglist.com will turn out to be a
better recruiting tool for the position (contract programmer) than
LinkedIn. The reason for this, I think, is that LinkedIn attracts
higher level, non-programmer types. Just surf around in the
Profile-pile, and you’ll see that most people are not “workers,”
they’re usually “management,” or, at least, “sales.”

craigslist.com, on the other hand, seems to attract worker
types. I have no idea if it attracts management types.

Grassroots Recruitment & LinkedIn’s Missed Opportunity

BMC offers a referral bonus (in the low $1,000 range) for full-time
employees. That is, if you refer someone who gets accepted for a
full-time job, you get a nice little bonus. So, if you know, or can
get
, someone to fill an open, full-time position at BMC, it’s well
worth your while to talk with friends, or post your own want ads for
positions.

I’m tentatively calling this kind of recruitment “grassroots
recruitment” because it’s not done by the company’s official HR or
recruiters. There’s probably a sexier name to give it. Whatever.

My Experience as a Grassroots Recruiter

Because of the referral bonus, once I started working at BMC, I
would try to get all my programmer/IT friends to apply for open
jobs. So far, I’ve referred two people that way. Once I (and my other
friends) exhausted that pool of people, I started putting up want ads
for open positions. I’ve only done this once, but it brought in a
person who was hired for the job. So, I’ve gotten to referral bonus for
people I knew, and one for someone I found through a want ad.

Now, when it comes to me posting those want ads, I’m not going to
pay to post them. It’s not worth the gamble of me paying my own money
for the possible payout of a bonus fee. So, craigslist.com fits this
perfectly: it costs nothing for me to post but my time. It is
worth my the gable of “spending” my time to post these want ads.

So, therein lies the problem for LinkedIn: if they’re charging
$95/30 days for a want ad, I’ll never use them for recruitment. More
than likely, other individuals at companies won’t use them
either. Only the official channels (HR and recruitment) will use
LinkedIn.

Which is all to say that LinkedIn’s want-ads will probably only
attract the same listings that other sites have: those posted and paid
for by HR departments. In my opinion, both as a job seeker and recruiter,
that type of posting is the least desirable.

What Job Seekers Want: Real People

If I was looking for a job, I’d want to find posts from individuals
at the company, actual people, that I could start having a
conversation with because:

  • I’d know that if an individual was putting up
    the post, they’d be much more motivated to push my application/resume
    through all the bureaucratic hurdles that the HR department would put
    up.
  • More than likely, the individual would just forward my stuff
    directly to the hiring manager.
  • I could ask the individual about the position and get real answers from
    someone who knew.
  • The individual will probably have written a job posting that’s
    much more descriptive and accurate of the position than the official
    listing. Even if the write-up is vague, I could talk to them and get
    good answers (see previous point).

What Recruiters Want: Online Hipsters

The most ideal candidates will be your hard-to-find, smart, online
hipster types. These are the people who not only know what the
difference, in Java, between == and
.equals() is, but also are up to date on all the cool
knew software gadgets, ideas, and trends. You want people who have
fresh and new ideas, and the drive to get them done.

When they’re looking for a job, these kinds of people don’t look
through news paper want ads, monster.com, and other dumping grounds of
boiler-plate want ads. They go to places where individuals post want
ads, not where HR people do (well, unless they’re really with-it HR
people ;>). That is, they go to sites where grassroots recruiters
post want ads.

Generally, the people who go to the more traditional want-ad places
are…more traditional people. This might be OK in more traditional
industries, but in software, it’s not the most desirable characteristic
you want…unless you’re someone like SAIC or Lockheed who’s looking
for stable, FBI-vetted people who’ll work for 5-10 years on the same
missile simulators written in ADA. (There’s nothing wrong with that
line of work
, it’s just not my cup of tea.)

LinkedIn’s Missed Opportunity

So, the point is: the people you really want in software aren’t
going to be looking at sites like LinkedIn for jobs because grassroots
recruits aren’t going to pay the $95 to put up a want ad. I predict
that LinkedIn’s want-ads section will just be another dumping ground
for the same old lame want ads you find at monster, dice, yahoo, and
where ever else. It won’t help companies find extremely good software
developers.

What LinkedIn Should Do

To grab back the missed opportunity, LinkedIn should offer a free
listing service. Maybe it would only list your want ad for 3-7 days,
limit the description to 200 words or less (not the 4,000 their pay
ads do, if I recall), and do anything else needed to create a pricing
structure where they could offer both free listings and for pay
listings.

With this model, they can foster the grassroots recruitment that I
know they want to have: LinkedIn is about social networks, which is
about people talking with other people. By pricing
people like myself out of posting want-ads, they’re eliminating half
of the conversation.

Classifieds In General

craigslist.com manages to be a successful classifieds site,
and they got bought by eBay. Any service providing want-ads
and classified would do well to study craigslist.com closely:

  • How is craigslist.com, as a company organized and run such that they
    can offer the majority of their services for free?
  • Why does your company have to charge for listings? Do you have
    too much over-head? Is your software written in too complicated of a
    language requiring lots of money for development and support?
  • Why does craiglist.com attract so many people? It’s free,
    simple, and open. LinkedIn seems to be on the verge of having none of those.

The alternative to learning from craiglist, and changing in
response to that new knowledge
, is to get out-marketed by the
scrappy, but hugely successful site.

Update: this post gets hit with spam comments way too often, so I’ve turned off comments. If you’d like to add a comment, please email me or simply add a link to this post in your own comment on a blog.