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Friday, February 3, 2012

Updates and feedback roundup

It's time for some meta discussion: feedback! I read everything which comes in via the "contact" links you'll find at the bottom of every post. I've picked up a good number of tips from readers. I really appreciate all of those, plus the words of support I receive. So let's talk about updates to recent posts.

Regarding hiring, I heard some real horror stories about other "second system" projects out there. One project had thrown six developers at the problem and was now pushing six months late. It looks like they're trying to cram everything into one project and have been throwing people at the problem. Not good.

On my half-baked ## search idea, Pascal wrote in with a note about W3C's "XPointer" working draft. It's intended to allow selecting things in XML documents. Naturally, it would need to be implemented in a browser to even start becoming useful, but it would be a start.

My only complaint is that a sample text-search would look ridiculous and would be unwieldy for humans. Even if that whole recommendation ends up taking root at some point, I would still call for having ## as an additional shortcut to a simple "find in document" lookup.

My site's look and feel was mentioned a few places. One comment on Hacker News called it "a unit test", and I assume that's meant to cast a negative light on things. I'm not a graphical designer and never have been, so what you see reflects a certain pragmatic "good enough" ethos combined with a wee bit of flair in a few places. Another comment said that it looked particularly good when zoomed on a mobile device, so maybe they cancel out.

As for my bridge picture, it might be a cliche, but it's a particularly beautiful one. The fact that I took it myself and don't owe anyone royalties on it makes everything that much sweeter. Anyone can park up there in the Marin Headlands to get a similar shot when the weather cooperates.

I received a suggestion to put up some way to accept payments through a specific web site (flattr). While I'm not sure I want to sign up for that right now, I will mention that I am already set up to accept credit cards as a side-effect of building my scanner and fred projects.

In response, I've put up a support page which will allow anyone with a PayPal account or an accepted credit/debit card to send a virtual tip if they so desire.

I heard from some Googlers and Xooglers (ex-Googlers, get it?) about the food situation. There was a report of a "mad rush to the cafeteria" in the evening, followed by people carting food home on the employee shuttles. They implied that the loyalty to the company just wasn't there.

As someone who used to work relatively late hours at times and had dinner at work now and then, I can definitely relate to some of this. I have my own personal moral standards which basically meant that I would not go to grab dinner unless I had already or was planning to put in at least X hours of actual work that day. Usually that meant "go get a burrito at Andale, then work some more, then go home". What I specifically avoided was snagging food, eating it, and then immediately disappearing for the day. Some people gave those folks a name: "eater-leaver".

It was telling that I got far more done in the evenings after most people had disappeared for the day. I could close the door to my office (which was shared with 3 other people), unplug my headphones from my laptop, and let my music play at a reasonable volume. During the day, that would be impossible, since it would annoy other people.

Consider this little anecdote about office space another plug for Peopleware, I guess.

Ticket management and choosing which task to do first turns out to be something from Operational Research theory according to a tip from Suraj. Another name for it is shortest job next. Wikipedia seems to be talking about it in a operating system context, but it might apply to anything which uses scheduling models.

Okay, that's it for this meta wrap-up. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.