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Category Archives: lol u mad?

They see me trollin’, they hatin’…

Certainly by now we have all noticed that the global PC market is a little constipated. Or dying. Whatever. Cool kids like Dell and Sony are doing things to address this, like firing people and selling business units, respectively. Hey man, whatever you’ve got to do to stay alive, right?

Tablet Hell

The Seventh Circle of Developer Hell, no doubt.

It’s horribly short-sighted, though. While things may look bleak right now, I have a hard time believing the PC is in as much trouble as some people may suggest. While it is quite true that smartphones and tablets have arrived on the scene and are eating a lot of the market that used to be dominated by PCs, they just aren’t the best platforms for accomplishing a lot of stuff — and they never will be, which is the important part. As much fun as the Google Nexus 10 is for goofing around when I don’t feel like getting out my crusty ol’ laptop, I can’t fathom trying to do anything serious on it. To this day I still can’t type on a touchscreen… attempting to do so for any substantial amount of time makes me want to buy firearms.

That brings me to Microsoft. Microsoft does some things really well and truly deserves its success. I’m a fan. But this is one place where they completely missed the mark and need to take a step back to adjust their strategy. The numbers may or may not agree with me (I don’t know what they are), but I believe Microsoft’s great strength lies in its ability to deliver a great environment for getting things done. When I think Microsoft, I think productivity: Windows, Office, Visual Studio, the .NET Framework, Azure… they have a pretty good track record for this stuff. Then there’s Windows 8. I get what they were trying to do, and there is something to be said for trying to unify interfaces across all the new form factors out there now, but wow, oops! So I say to Microsoft: your core market is the business world, and they don’t want to get gorilla arm from your crappy OS and its obsession with touchscreens. Continue to make your Windows be for businesses first and regular consumers second since smartphones and tablets are going to eat the consumer market anyway, and you can’t prevent it. With time, you’ll see that even though PC sales won’t reach pre-tablet levels ever again, there will still be a strong market for you in the business sector. That’s not to say you have to completely give up on the new way of doing things… just don’t put it before your foundation and real strengths.

All I’m saying is that most businesses aren’t going to suddenly buy tablets for all their workers and expect everything to be done on mobile devices… because it won’t work. It’s crazy. There are still a lot of things you just don’t do on this latest generation of hardware, not if you want to keep your sanity. Tech companies closing or divesting their PC business units strike me as a little weak in the long-term planning area. Then again, it is also possible that I am simply already an old fart at age 29 because technology is moving in directions that confound and annoy me and I am refusing to see the writing on the wall. That would be a little sad.


DistressI’ll just leave this here…

As a worker — specifically, a software developer — I’ve found that telecommuting provides the best results. The distractions of the home pale in comparison to the distractions of the office. Also, it makes me happy. Always has. That’s what’s really important, anyway.

As a manager — specifically, a manager of software developers — I’ve found that telecommuting provides the best results. Software developers are savvy and they’ll deliver the goods if you show them respect and give them the freedom to work the way they know is best for them.

That’s my anecdotal support for telecommuting, which is great and all, but hardly necessary given the real evidence showing how awesome working from home can be. Hell, if you take it from this study, apparently you can actually squeeze more hours out of your telecommuters if you’re that kind of boss. You jerk.

Jackie Chan - WTFIt’s been roughly 20 years since the internet became widely available, but the business landscape is still largely run by fools who think the old ass-in-chair paradigm of the Industrial Era applies to 100% of the workforce. It doesn’t, and anyone can see that. But just when it seemed we were beginning to make some progress in the right direction, the most bizarre thing happened: Yahoo! dropped a bombshell on its employees and the world by telling all its remote workers they were no longer remote workers.

You might think a company that does the vast majority of its business online would be hip to telecommuting, but apparently you’d be wrong. Very shortly after, Best Buy did the same thing to its office workers. Both companies said it was to improve “collaboration” and all that, but folks didn’t buy it. Claiming that workers have to share a close physical proximity with one another in order to accomplish stuff is plain ridiculous. There was immediate speculation that telecommuters were being made into scapegoats for the failing companies.

moar like Smeghead Whitman, am i rite?

moar like Smeghead Whitman, am i rite?

Fast forward to today, when HP became the latest troubled enterprise to screw its remote workers. See, now I’m concerned. If you get enough of these well-known corporations doing this, even though it’s just a tactic to shush angry investors, other companies will follow suit because it’s the current trend in personnel management. Never mind that it’s just a way to distract from the real problems the organization faces… think how much better we’ll be when we drag all these happy, productive people into the office where they will most likely be neither happy nor productive! Better yet, if they can’t or won’t comply with the new directive, who can blame us if we have to perform a — gasp — reduction in force!

You know what’s really ironic about the HP thing? This. (Update: Nice try, HP. I saved a copy in case you took yours down!)

I use Facebook. I avoided it for quite a few years because I felt I was doing fine on MySpace, but eventually I caved and made the move when the gravity of that situation became obvious. I came to prefer Facebook pretty quickly because it didn’t allow users to create their own hideous customized profiles with glitter and autoplaying music and all that other trash. Over the past couple of years, though, Facebook has made some really tragic design changes and business decisions that would spell trouble if anyone else could get their act together enough to threaten Facebook’s position as the most popular social network. And then there’s the stuff they’re doing that just plain scares me, and should scare you, too.

ImpossibleSocial Fixer is a browser extension which I’ve come to love because it lets you tweak Facebook to your liking. You can choose a theme (I like a dark gray one, easier one the eyes), filter out posts you don’t want to see (I hate sports but some of my friends post about it CONSTANTLY), and get a notice when someone unfriends you (kind of a no-brainer, why wouldn’t Facebook do this anyway?). Well, Facebook has decided to kill Social Fixer’s best features by threatening the author with legal action if he doesn’t gut the extension and make it pretty close to useless. He explains the situation here much better than I can.

Why’s that scare me? Because the guy obviously can’t fight a corporation and has no choice but to back down. That merely strengthens the beast and supports the notion that a company can control your internet experience by crying like a big baby and invoking America’s screwed up legal system. They can effectively hijack your browser to suit their needs, though maybe not in the way we all normally fear a browser hijacking. I choose to run Social Fixer and to adjust what I see in my browser when I visit Facebook. I also choose to run AdBlock to adjust what I don’t see in my browser, but that’s another story. What gives Facebook the right to control what I see by the time it’s left their servers and arrived on my property? Didn’t we settle this question already with VCRs? I’m pretty sure these days, people are recording broadcast television on DVRs and skipping all the commercials. That’s right, we control it once it’s on our devices. If your business model sucks so much that you can’t handle that, you need to rethink your business model.

TrollSomething that’s similarly scary is the general reaction to all this. When it first became evident that Facebook was screwing around with Social Fixer, I submitted the developer’s blog post to Slashdot and was surprised to find that it was accepted. Cool, right? Well, maybe not so much. Take a look at the comments and you’ll see a lot of support for… Facebook. That’s right, poor little Facebook is having its EULA/Terms stomped all over, Social Fixer should know better, and ads are awesome. I still can’t believe the reaction. There was a very poor showing for people who like to control what they see.

Facebook is far bigger than MySpace ever was and is now a contender in the global domination arena. As noted earlier, without some serious competition, they’ll be able to coast for quite a while, and there will be no threat of a MySpace-style failure. The Social Fixer debacle will have no effect on the greater Facebook narrative. The precedent I’m whining about has effectively been set and there will be tangible, long-lasting consequences. My point is that this is the bad ending. That happens sometimes. As far as Social Fixer goes, my opinion is that the author should post the source code on GitHub and/or CodePlex and call it quits. He’s not equipped to fight this crap and it’s not his fight, anyway. It’s everyone’s fight and we’ll have to deal with it at some point.

Dr EvilI’ve pretty much always worked for small companies. I enjoy seeing my contributions make highly visible impacts and knowing that, hey, I did that. It also tends to keep me from being pigeonholed into one boring repetitive role. There are substantial risks involved with working for small companies, though, and unfortunately I’ve experienced pretty much all of them by now.

One place a few years ago took me for one hell of a ride. Things started out great — you know how that goes: everyone is all smiley and jolly for the interview(s) and before you know it, you’re making a tremendous life decision based on what you’ve seen of these people for like an hour. Well, the owners of this company turned out to be complete snakes. But like all snakes, they put on a fantastic show in the beginning and it was impossible to see what was really going on until I was several months in. The details aren’t terribly important, but taken altogether, we’re talking about guys who lied to, cheated, and stole from employees, customers, vendors, and the government. Real Boy Scouts.

After I parted ways with them, I expected their rotten company would collapse or get caught or something. But of course, they’re still around, still doing all the same things, and I’ve since grown out of my naïve belief in what amounts to the just-world fallacy. The truth is that bad people get away with a lot of stuff. They tend to be the winners. And they probably feel great about it.

I was perusing Glassdoor the other day and decided to look up that company. What I found gave me a strange sense of satisfaction — even justice. Over the years, a fair number of their employees (considering this was a pretty small company) have taken to the internet to express their displeasure with the owners. The reviews all sound eerily similar to my own assessments and determinations, thus affirming to me that my sense of ethics is, in fact, quite solid. It doesn’t change anything, but it still makes me happy. It validates my reality, and who doesn’t love that feeling?

Strong Bad EmailSuppose Bob is George’s manager at your place of business. Suppose now that this email toast pops up on your screen one morning:

From: Bob
Subject: George

That’s kind of ambiguous, don’t you think? What could that mean? What couldn’t that mean? Maybe I’m pessimistic, but my mind immediately jumps to “George is no longer with the organization, please forward all correspondence to Jimmy.”

More often than not, once you actually open the email, it’s “George will be out today. Please get with Jimmy if you need anything.” Dude, why couldn’t you have indicated that in the subject? Instead of just “George”, try “George out today”.

It’s such a little thing but it makes a huge difference in the communication’s effectiveness. I’d go so far as to say it impacts morale, too. If you work at an organization that’s known for having difficulty retaining personnel, you and your colleagues are already primed to think the worst. An email like that popping up reminds everyone for a moment of the fragility of their jobs, and even after they’ve read that George is going to the dentist this morning, they’re still left with the original uncomfortable thought. That’s instant subconscious organization-wide crappy morale. Ruins the day whether you realize it or not.

So remember everyone, choose your words wisely and communicate effectively!