MikeBD Musings of a 24/6 techie (Software Architect / Technical Manager) family guy struggling to find meaning, balance and strong design / implementation supporting excellent user experiences.

28Sep/100

Comments from James Gosling upon leaving Oracle / my thoughts on the creative and artistic aspects of Software Development

Excerpts From: Java Creator James Gosling: Why I Quit Oracle - In an exclusive interview with eWEEK, Java creator James Gosling discusses a series of issues he earlier declined to take public, including why he left Oracle.

  • Also, asked whether in hindsight he would have preferred Sun having been acquired by IBM (which pursued a deal to acquire Sun and then backed out late in the game) rather than Oracle, Gosling said he and at least Sun Chairman Scott McNealy debated the prospect. And the consensus, led by McNealy, was that although they said they believed “Oracle would be more savage, IBM would make more layoffs.”
  • However, in Gosling’s case personally, he may have fared better at IBM, where technical savvy is generously rewarded. For instance, when IBM acquired Rational Software they saw value in Rational’s chief scientist Grady Booch, co-creator of the UML (Unified Modeling Language), and made him an IBM fellow and more.
  • “All of the senior people at Sun got screwed compensation-wise. Their job titles may have been the same, but their ability to decide anything was just gone.”
  • Also, there are number of interesting comments on Google's use of Java in Android and the relative merits of software patent litigation.

This is an interesting read on employee motivation, reconfirming that the intangibles - including intellectual / creative freedom really do matter.

I have always felt that Software Development is as much a creative / artistic endeavour, if not more so, than it is a science. The scientific aspects reinforce the need for considered methodology, measured responses to create healthy feedback loops on both progress and results, and the imposition of order upon chaos (e.g. design, usability and information architecture). This is true as well of all fields of human activity traditionally considered by many to be purely creative / artistic: music, art, architecture etc...

I believe many technical managers would do very well to contemplate this in hiring by gauging creativity and in production by allowing time boxed exercises to evolve functional and non-functional capabilities. At worst, some time is lost in 15-30 minute manageable increments, but even then, the team benefits from the exercise in many ways. Trust the team, give them the support and tools they need, then prepare to be amazed at how they will add unexpcted value - often willingly contributing their own time.

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2Sep/102

Website Redesign – FINALLY…

I have put this off far too long and, of course, with every passing year my previous website design grew increasingly unsatisfactory. The old site used Protopage to wrap a blogger blog that was started before it was purchased by Google. I think Protopage is a very cool "start page" service, but I would prefer it for private use and not public publishing.

For one thing, the old approach offered very little Search Engine Optimization capability.

I have many posts in mind but had put off updating the old site for these reasons. I hope to catch up shortly and share lots...

Please let me know if you have any feedback on the new site or experience any problems viewing it.

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9Nov/060

Help Mike Stop Rhyming

Once in a while I get started rhyming and have trouble stopping. Witness the following essay on exceptional experiences:

It has been said that in many categories, brand loyalty is near negligible these days. Often times, purchasing decisions can be made by consulting online or hard copy customer and editorial reviews and shopping around for the best prices. I have done this myself many times. However, there is one brand in particular that I now have very strong loyalty to because they rescued me from a horrible user experience.

Once upon a time in a cheerful land before the ultimate rein of Schwartz and Reisman, lived a wonderful site known as Chapters.ca. It had books and so much more but mostly a very functional store. With checkout options galore, but not so much as to implore, a need for manual interaction to complete the transaction. It was speedy as can be and always led me to believe that my order would arrive exactly as it was described. Trust, you see, is a key to usability.

But darkness descended on the land when one day tragically began with a rude shock awaiting me when the site unexpectedly had a new name and colour scheme. What once I knew and loved before alas it was to be no more. Chapters.ca had been usurped by Indigo. The experience I had enjoyed was ruined when I was annoyed to find errors and timeouts interrupting my checkouts.

When once I was described as sane, exasperation overcame my calm serenity and threatened to bring me to my knees. At last it occurred to me the notion of a property named for so many tropical trees. Amazon.ca had sprouted in the land and it was then that I began what is a likely guaranty of faithful brand loyalty. It works and does as I expect, leaving me sans any regret for the time and money I invest into their flourishing forest.

Continue reading...

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2Aug/060

Got me a new PC – part 2: command line fun + a sidebar on how timesheets suck

In part 1 - hardware / OS platform, I discussed the rationale behind purchasing a new PC laptop and configuring it with Windows as a virtual machine host and Ubuntu as a guest OS.

The unfortunate reality of my professional life for the last few years has been that I have spent most of my time in meetings or using MS Word, Outlook, Project and a series of horribly designed timesheet management applications.

Is there a rule in some obscure tome that precludes any usability testing on timesheet applications? One of these timesheet applications was so bad, that I built my own front end to it which quickly grew in popularity amongst the staff. I have enough trouble understanding why employees are made to suffer with the chore of recording their time in the first place. Any manager that is paying attention should be able to account for the time their staff is spending in enough detail to serve realistic enterprise reporting needs. Especially in companies that routinely expect staff to work unpaid overtime, it is counterproductive to force overworked employees to record a detailed accounting of their time. In the companies I have worked for, I have witnessed much more selfless effort contributed by teams that were not asked to keep timesheets than I have seen at other organizations.

My coding habit is crying out for some attention and that is a big part of why I recently changed jobs. When not using MS bloatware and attending endless meetings, any self respecting software developer spends a lot of time at a command line.
Continue reading...

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