Friday, December 31, 2004

Phuket Tsunami

Check out the Phuket Tsunami blog for a firsthand account of the tsunami in Phuket. He has links to eyewitness video footage as well. It's shocking stuff, but worth reading to understand better what happened this Boxing Day.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami

Whilst we're still busy with after-Christmas goings on, I can't help watching the tragedy unfolding in the wake of the Indian Ocean earthquake on Sunday, the 26th December. I thank God that no one I know is there at the moment, but my honeymoon was in Phuket and I really feel for all of the lovely people that made it such a great holiday for us.

There are some good sites up for people to get information and help from, here are two of the ones I've found best:

The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami blog has lots of very helpful information for people affected by this disaster, or who want to help those affected.

Wikipedia's 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami web page is full of interesting technical information and some very well organised up to date information.

If nothing else, this is a great reminder that Christmas is meant to be about giving help to others, so check out either of those sites for ways you can donate, or otherwise help out.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

How many projects is too much?

Frank Patrick has an interesting question up about how many projects can a project manager handle? He's inviting comments from other people.

I know that there have been times in my career when I have reached that limit - and motored on past it. Some people reach that sooner than others, and everyone reacts differently when they get there.

Personally I found that I relied too much on my personal ability to stay on top of everything, keeping it all in my head so to speak. When I reached my limit, my projects started getting out of control, and I couldn't seem to get on top of them.

The answer (for me) lay in being completely disciplined in how I manage projects, whether handling one or many, mainly because you never know when you will reach your limit. That discipline meant that I never lost my way, and when I was overloaded, I could more easily share the workload with my team and other project managers.

Another key was learning when to 'push back', and let my boss know that I was sceptical of my ability to handle more work. That often helped, because then we could negotiate what I needed to do, and he could help me by re-prioritising internal projects or working out where a client could be accomodated differently, or handled by someone else's team.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Software Building Angst

It's funny how it doesn't take software developers long to find out that sometimes clients are a pain. I mean, they don't know what they want, but they do want something, they don't like the boundaries you put around their problems ... they just want you to solve their problems (cheaply, quickly and well).

Robert DW has two interesting articles about this phenomenon, the first is If Architects Had To Work Like Web Designers... and the second is Software is too expensive too build cheaply.

However, if you've ever hired an architect, or a designer (any sort) you quickly realise that it is really hard making up your mind about subjects outside your experience/skillset, but still important to you.

The closest most software developers get to this is when they get help designing their website, or their corporate logo/design. Now if you get someone who isn't really interested in doing a great job, then the process is easy, but the end result is a logo that looks amateurish, or a website that just doesn't bring in new business, or impress clients.

A good designer can be a pain to work with, because they make you think about what you want, educate you about what is good/bad and mostly seem to get you to do all the creative work for them. A great designer reads your mind and does this without hassling you by the sort of mental osmosis that has to be seen to be believed (or maybe they're just plain lucky). Bad designers just give you their best attempt at a design that they think looks 'kewl'.

Pay attention software developers, this is the mirror image of what our clients experience. They ask for a simple order tracking system, and we bombard them with questions about the datatype of an order ID, the scope of a business process and a dozen other questions that they feel (rightly or wrongly) we should already know the answers to (if you're claiming to be an industry expert, they may be right about these).

I think one of the keys to being a great software developer (other than being graceful in the face of difficult clients) is to learn how to help your clients find out what they really want.

Back when I was at uni, they called this needs analysis, and told us young aspiring developers how clients might know what they want, but we were supposed to tell them what they needed. Like a lot of academic advice, that is partly true (a client doesn't always want the right things) and partly bull-dung (the customer is paying you to do what they want). I've put my foot in it a couple of times, telling clients that they needed X when they had asked for Y ... it's bad for business, not to mention rude.

The customer is always right, even when they're wrong. A software developer should make sure that it's not their own incorrect assumptions and biases that are wrong, as often the problem is an ego issue rather than a dumb client.

So don't just client-bash when they don't seem to get it and be willing to take the blame for something you've done wrong, and you're on the road to becoming a better software developer.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Iraqi Soldiers - "We have been silent enough."

The Washington Post has an interesting article (registration required) interviewing some of the Iraqi soldiers fighting in Fallujah.

Here are some quotes from the article:
For Mustafa, one of 2,000 Iraqi soldiers fighting alongside U.S. troops for control of this insurgent-occupied city, the battle for Fallujah was personal. If the fighters continue to control Iraqi cities, there will be no future for him, his children or his wife of 10 weeks.

"She has to know I am doing this for her," Mustafa said Sunday from an Iraqi base camp near Fallujah. "I want my wife to go shopping without fear. This is the goal of this operation, to help the Iraqis get rid of fear. It is worth it to be away from home."
Fallujah is being destroyed (mainly because of the way the insurgents are fighting). It's interesting to see these soldiers say why they are there (emphasis mine):
After a week of fighting, Mustafa said, Fallujah was in ruins. Houses were destroyed, buildings burned and bodies of insurgents scattered in the streets.

"Nothing in this city is like it was before," he said.

"Don't look to the destruction," a soldier standing next to Mustafa said. "Look at the future of the city without terrorists."


"If we could control Fallujah and defeat the terrorists in the city, all Iraq will stabilize," Mustafa said. "I've seen nightmares for the last few days, all about the fighting in Fallujah, but when I think of the results, I feel better."


He said he would never think about giving up now, not when his country needed him. "If I don't try and others don't, those rats will spread with their diseases," he said. "We have been silent enough."

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Bloggers Cut Through the Fog of War

In YaleGlobal's Bloggers Cut Through the Fog of War, Mark Glase talks about the effect that blogs are having on the media industry, especially in countries without free press:
“...citizens trust weblogs more than any other medium.”
One of the pioneering Iranian bloggers, Hossein Derakhshan, estimates that there are more than 70,000 Persian-language blogs. In a repressive society such as Iran's, where the government controls most media outlets, one survey recently showed that citizens trust weblogs more than any other medium.
We are somewhat spoiled in the West, with our free press, but it's interesting to see how the web, and specifically blogging, is changing the way people source their news.

Monday, November 01, 2004

CSS Expressions

Did you know you can use Javascript in CSS? It's an IE 5+* item from MS that basically allows a CSS Expression to encapsulate Javascript. Geoff Appleby points out how to use it to make a TBODY tag scrollable, whilst the THEAD is stationary (look mum, no frames!). The actual example can be done more elegantly is you're just building for Firefox etc. (hint, use overflow:scroll), but the point is that it makes Javascript available for doing funky stuff ... now what else could we do with this?

* So it is probably only really useful in an intranet site.

Marxist Premise Behind Moore's F9/11?

So, like many bloggers I'm keeping my eye on the US election, especially as our own national election was so recent.

Somehow, I ended up looking at some very interesting German media commentary, and one thing leads to another, and I end up finding one of the most interesting, and truthful, Michael Moore criticisms around:
Lurking behind the glowing reviews of Fahrenheit 9/11 is an unadmitted Marxist premise -- the root idea of the left and the foundation necessary to justify propaganda. In the ideology of materialist Marxism, ideas are just a "superstructure," a "legitimating ideology" whose sole purpose is to advance the power of one group or class over another. The seizure of political power, in this view, is the only truly important goal -- and the marshalling of ideas and arguments is to be judge only by how it serves raw power politics. More than a decade after the fall of Soviet tyranny, that is the ugly totalitarian outlook that leers out at us from the left-leaning reviewers' reaction to Michael Moore.
I lifted that quote from the Cox & Forkum website. They have a rather fun picture there showing that behind Kerry is Moore, and behind him is Marx. The original source of the quote is a magazine called The Intellectual Activist that Cox & Forkum did the cover art for.

A lot of webspace has been spent showing how Moore lies and twists the truth in his documentaries (or rather docudramas), but the quote above is the first time I have seen a possible reason for this so clearly enunciated. Moore has profited from his movies, but that doesn't explain his continued pressuring of this issue. Gaining power, now that is something that a man like Moore would LOVE to have. I'm not sure how much Kerry supports Moore's ideals, but I am sure that it's a partnership born from a desire to change who is in power, NOT one born of idealism.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Yellow Flowers

My son decided to arrange some yellow flowers today, not bad for a toddler!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The times they are a-changin'

Bob Dylan was talking about a different time than this, but it's interesting seeing parrallels. The Australian Liberal party has stormed back into power, with more seats now than before the 2004 election.

The Democrats have lost their position of 3rd place to the Greens, but they are struggling themselves in the face of their close position with Labor, and apparent extreme views (like legalising ecstasy, LSD, etc). The rather feral looking middle-aged woman handing out Greens literature at my local polling place simply hammered the point home.

It was very interesting that at least one academic has seen this election as showing younger Australians attracted towards the Coalition. I wonder if the Greens' appeal is limited to the politically correct older generation and those young people that still buy the nonsense about PC being good?

On another note, today was one of the hottest Sydney days in October ever, reaching a massive (for Spring) 38.2C. It looks to cool off over the next day or two, but perhaps global warming is here to stay? ;-)

[EDIT: It seems that young celebrities are putting their money behind Kerry in the US. Does that mean they're more sensitive to political correctness than young Aussies? Or is just that our youth are more worried about getting a mortgage, and back the Liberal's track record?]

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Nielsen Wades Into Presidential Emails

Proving that no one can resist commenting on the American Presidential Election, Jakob Nielsen has waded into the debate by analysing the usability of the Bush and Kerry email newsletters.

Overall he rates them as equally bad in terms of their usability (as he puts it they are both “stuck in last century's understanding of media”), but interestingly enough finds that:
Even though the overall ratings are very close, there are interesting differences in the details: each campaign does well in some areas that are problematic for its opponent.

To me the most amazing point he makes is that the newsletters frequently change the FROM address, the Republicans most frequently, so that sometimes it is from Arnold Schwarzenegger (Termie!), and other times from Ed Gillespie (who?). Whilst that may help avoid spam filters that have been set to ignore one of the emails, it really doesn't help people make good use of the emails (like auto-forwarding it to a Politics folder for later perusal, rather than being forced to deal with it there and then).

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Beautiful Sydney

The view from Sydney's Circular Quay

Sydney's Harbour Bridge

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Ten CSS Tricks You May Not Know

This set of very cool, and nifty tricks is well worth having a look at. Of course there had to be someone who found a problem in them, and in this case its Wayne Burkett, who posts an alternative solution for 10. Background colour running to the screen bottom. This is the old problem with how to get equal length columns with unqeual length content. He proposes making the content div overwrite a background colour in a wrapper div that then is seen below the menu div. This solves the problem by cheating a little, the columns are different lengths, but visually they are now the same length.

Friday, September 03, 2004

GMail Invites

I've got 3 GMail invites to give away. Friends and family have already received ones, or don't need one, so these are up for grabs. First in, best dressed! (let me know why you want one too)

Update: I've got 5 invites now to give away! (it was 6 for a short while :-)

Update #2: I've now only got 4 invites to give away!

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Web Essentials 04

Tossing up whether to go to Web Essentials 04 in Sydney. It's AUD$750, which is not much for 2 days of great speakers and good food ... but that's 2 days not earning money.

Hey, anyone else want to pay for me? ;-)

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Website Complete!

Well I finally completed the website I was doing in my spare time.

The client was Kola Developments, a builder who does renovations and new constructions for residential and commercial clients.

I must admit the site design was inspired (ie. pinched) from StopDesign, the guys that designed many of the blog templates for Blogger.

The end result is I think pleasing, but you can judge for yourselves ;-), especially nice are the sample project pages' headers which use details from the project photos.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Tricks of the Trade

Every trade has its own tricks that make life easier, and clean up your mistakes. Here is an article that outlines a few Tricks of the Trade for several professions. Good tips if you've ever wanted to know how to fake it as a street musician or what your butcher just yelled to his mate out the back.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Microsoft Press to Publish "Beyond Bullets" Book

Recently Cliff Atkinson announced that Microsoft Press will be publishing a "Beyond Bullets" book.
The content of the book will expand upon many of the ideas in this blog, but present them in a more methodical and accessible way. And it will introduce new ideas and innovations well beyond anything you've seen here, keeping them all grounded in practicality.
I've got his blog on my blogroll (at right) because of how powerful and effective his communication tips are, so this will definitely be an addition to the McDonald library.

Monday, August 23, 2004

HDTV, DVD, Hard Drives and the future

Blog Maverick is a blog run by the owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team and one of the guys behind HDNet, who provide high-definition TV.

He has a post about HDTV, DVD, Hard Drives and the future where he makes some interesting points:

1. DVD will always be limited in size (even if it moves up to 50GBs), but portable hard drives aren't - and keep on getting larger capacity.

2. Making movies/programs in high-definition and then distributing via hard drives will allow media companies to kill off internet piracy - because the files will be too large to share over public networks.

HDNet are already having to compress their programs down to fit the broadcast standards. Putting them uncompressed on hard drives would increase the quality that people could watch them at on their TV at home.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

RedSheriff's View of Google

Speaking of Google, Red Sheriff's latest report on internet and technology trends has this to say about
Google is used most regularly by 42% of Australian Internet users compared to Yahoo at 18%. Other search engines mentioned were Ninemsn (14%) and Altavista (4%). Google achieved the highest level of search satisfaction with 80% of their users very satisfied, compared to Yahoo users of whom 63% gave this response. Peoples' satisfaction with their search engine increased significantly as they became more Internet savvy, indicating it can still take time and practice to learn how to search effectively.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Just Answer the Question

Jakob Nielsen's latest Alertbox, When Search Engines Become Answer Engines, shows how web users no longer value individual sites as much because they know they can find whatever they want on the web using search engines.

I find this myself - there is no one technical site that covers every problem I have - I get my answers by Googling for them, using Google's search engine to scour websites and newsgroups for answers.

Jakob goes on to point out the consequences of this for website owners, and strategies to increase loyal users versus unique visiters.

It is clear that websites cannot create loyal users just by reproducing content found elsewhere on the web, users will rely on search engines to find the pages that are most relevant to their needs and will only stick around if;
 a) Your content is superior to that elsewhere; or
 b) Your contextual links interest them, and/or help them answer their current question.

There is an interesting parrallel in current theories about how Web Services will affect distributed data. Most businesses that operate in multiple locations put up with the need to replicate their data (e.g. contacts lists, sales figures, etc.) around their various locations. Broadband web access and WANs/VPNs have gone some way to reduce this need, but it is still the industry convention.
We replicate because there has been no sensible alternative. Yet replication is an inherently weak and error prone model that causes inconsistency, complexity and huge costs. Web services based interoperability offers interesting solutions to this problem as the new SOAP based Internet standards enable pervasive accessibility.

Business users just want the answer, they don't care which data store it comes from. More to the point, they will have problems with data that is inaccurate or out of date. In the same way as websites need to concentrate on the information that is unique to them, so too might corporate data stores specialise in the data they own, and then use Web Services to make that data accessible to users that might previously have had to rely on a local replica of that data.

I think that Microsoft's commitment to architectures that support Web Services and distributed collaboration (such as .NET, SharePoint Technologies and SQL Reporting Services) will help drive this move to more accessible local data. With SharePoint Portal Server the power of web search engines is harnessed to make corporate data more accessible to all users. In fact it provides better functionality because it handles user authentication, different levels of access permissions and rich meta data.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Practical CSS Layout Tips, Tricks, & Techniques

I'm building a website for my brother-in-law at the moment, and so I decided to eschew table structures completely in favour of CSS2 styles. Everything was sweet in Mozilla Firefox, but then when I check it out in IE 6 weirdness abounds (and why does this not surprise me?).

So I am out and about searching for good CSS help and I along the way I found that A List Apart has a great set of Practical CSS Layout Tips, Tricks, & Techniques. I especially like the one for HTML forms, which I am using with some minor mods (I got rid of the span for the labels and styled the LABEL tag instead).

Friday, August 13, 2004

Producing Quality CSS in a Team Environment

Digital Web Magazine has a great article titled A Matter of Styles: Producing Quality CSS in a Team Environment. The article points out that with the widespread adoption of CSS standards by large corporates, web designers are being forced to work together on stylesheets - something many web designers are not used to when it comes their CSS.

The best example of how much personal choice is available to designers is the specification of colour, a relatively simple aspect of web design (use hex numbers right?). Here is the problem for the designer updating CSS stylesheets maintained by others:
His find-and-replace dreams were quashed by more methods of color notation than he’d care to think about: some of the application’s developers prefer to write #003366 in its entirety; others are fans of the terse #036; a few sadistic souls apparently ditched hex notation altogether, and opted for rgb(0, 102, 153).

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Pat Helland's Metropolis Vision

Pat Helland has a vision of information technology (IT) evolving in the same way that the American Metropolis evolved over the last two centuries.

Leaving aside the question of whether this is a desirable direction for software development to take, I don't think this metaphor works. It reminds me of the first few websites I designed back in the mid-90s ... clients thought their website should look like a building, perhaps have the sort of presence their building lobby had. Heck, when I first explored web development I thought that looking for novel navigation methods based on physical objects was a good idea. The fact is that those ideas ignored usability, and only sounded good because of our lack of experience using the new medium.

What is the point of the city metaphor? Well for one thing, it neatly places the current state of development back in time and so allows us to gaze into the crystal ball and have some idea of where we might be going, based on where cities have gone over that time.

Unfortunately, this idea only works if the factors driving the evolution of the city are similar in nature and effect to the factors driving the evolution of IT, and if the rest of the metaphor actually maps the way he expects it to:
  • Cities map to IT shops

  • Factories or Buildings map to Applications

  • Transportation maps to Communication

  • Manufactured Goods map to Structured Data

  • Manufactured Assemblies map to Virtual Enterprises

  • Urban Infrastructure maps to IT Infrastructure

  • City Government maps to IT Governance

What about parks (national and public), public areas, shopping strips, sports facilities, natural geography, etc.?

Pat looks at the internet like the arrival of railroads, but in reality it is more like the arrival of mass produced automobiles, except that upsets his timeline, and creates problems with the metaphor. He says that:
Economic pressures changed our cities. Certainly the best intentions of city planners eased the transitions—and saved some historic monuments—but economic opportunity is what really drove cities to modernize, to share services, and to devise creative means to achieve efficiencies.

What about the mass movement of the labour force from the shrinking labour markets of the rural areas to the growing labout markets of the urban areas? What IT object maps to the people in the city?!

More to the point, a building often remains standing long after its original use has expired. Sometimes it is retained for its historical/heritage value, other times it remains because economics meant that it suited another use, and sometimes it is simply renovated and re-used. Applications are not used this way, and often do not lend themselves to being re-used like this - perhaps they might in the future (I have seen components re-used) - but their basic nature and our relationship to them does not encourage this sort of behaviour. Even if it did, we would not see the sheer volume or diversity of re-use in applications that we do in buildings.

I once worked in an old church that had been renovated into the headquarters for a record label and then was taken over by an ad agency, only to end up being sub-tenanted by a number of different companies. Rooms were re-purposed - my old office had been the agency's multi-media theatre - the upstairs corridor became a meeting area, the back-door became the front-door for one of the tenants, etc.

But then again, perhaps I am griping to no end here. After all Pat's intent seems to be to encourage us to see our current situation as backward and to provide a rallying cry for SOA (Service Oriented Architecture). I admit that there is a lot of justice in the idea that the current state of IT leaves something to be desired ... at least for businesses/users. The fact that heterogeneity always occurs, and usually just when you are happy with your IT architecture, is a well observed side-effect of Murphy's Law, and so the sort of interoperability that SOA is pushing makes a lot of sense to IT people and business users alike.

Nasty Thought: Or perhaps this is just another attempt to reinforce the idea that IT architects have common interest with building architects, their more established and far 'sexier' cousins? Is the real aim to add lustre to the title Software Architect? (or Application Architect, or Solution Architect, or ...)

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Inside the Mind of Jeff Bezos

Continuing the theme of short little lists, Fast Company takes us Inside the Mind of Jeff Bezos and summarises his tips on business in general and Amazon specifically:

The Book of Bezos
  • Hire very carefully -- you're creating an enduring culture.

  • Be stubborn and flexible.

  • Obsess about customers, not colleagues.

  • Know when to throw away the org chart.

  • Get good advice -- and ignore it.

  • Don't chase the quick buck.
The Amazon Rules
  • Communication is terrible.

  • Take leaps of faith.

  • Be simpleminded.

  • Add up lots of little advantages.

The Ten Commandments of Egoless Programming

Here is an old article, but one worth checking out again, lists the Ten Commandments of egoless programming:
  1. Understand and accept that you will make mistakes.

  2. You are not your code.

  3. No matter how much 'karate' you know, someone else will always know more.

  4. Don't rewrite code without consultation.

  5. Treat people who know less than you with respect, deference, and patience.

  6. The only constant in the world is change.

  7. The only true authority stems from knowledge, not from position.

  8. Fight for what you believe, but gracefully accept defeat.

  9. Don't be "the guy in the room."

  10. Critique code instead of people -- be kind to the coder, not to the code.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Web Based MSN Messenger

Dana Epp points out that there is a beta Web Based MSN Messenger available.

It is missing some of the cool functionality we've come to know and love, like inviting other people into your conversations. Also it will not work if you are logged into MSN Messenger elsewhere.

Still it's nice to have a web-based solution for when you're going to be on a computer that doesn't have MSN Messenger installed, and you can't/don't want to install it.

Australia 23 def. New Zealand 18

In another great victory the Wallabies beat the All Blacks on Saturday night.

I've decided that Stirling Mortlock deserves a new nickname - his running style when defending (or for that matter when attacking) has his long arms held down low with hands open like a crab's pincers, so for me he will now always be "da claw!"

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Review: The Chronicles of Riddick

Top of the head rating: 4/5 (probably 5/5 on DVD)

Some mates and I went and saw The Chronicles of Riddick on Tuesday night. I had researched the film extensively on the internet, and so had a pretty good idea that the editing would leave something to be desired ...

This film is a great example of a good science-fiction film, one where the story and the characters are as interesting as the special effects and the alien environment.

Good bits: The action rocks and is involving, but like many moder movies where it is too fast and furious the director helps by distancing you from the action. The style of the film is great, and the difference between the Necros' gothic look, the mercs/prison look and the Helion Prime look is believable and consistent. The end of the film brings to mind great scenes from Conan stories, with the barbarian become king of the evil empire.

Bad bits: Some of the editing is clumsy, and it looks like the bits that were done to get it an 'M' rating in Australia. From what I had heard on the web, I knew that they had ripped out bits of the action for censors in the US, and then had ripped out bits of the story when test audiences said it was too dull without those action bits. There are a few parts of the film that show this; like Riddick's escape from the Necros' mothership; and where Riddick is talking without looking at the camera - which indicates they are using a previously non-talking shot to convey information lost when they made their cut.

Lux: Project Lifecycle Methodology

Huh. Sometimes you find someone who just says things in a way that makes sense to you.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Getting Things Done (GTD)

I am conscious that changing jobs will create the need for me to become familiar with new management processes and tools.

Hopefully my new workplace will have lots of these, and they will work well ... but there is a good chance I will have to supplement these myself.

At my last workplace I customised my Lotus Notes mail database to make my job easier, and rarely had more than 5-20 emails in there at once. However, I don't expect to be using Notes in the future.

With this in mind, I was interested when I came across references today to the Getting Things Done self-management methodology by David Allen.

Especially interesting is the GTD Outlook add-in that helps automate the methodology within MS Outlook. I can see this being of a lot of value, and the recorded demo certainly shows how easily it could work for me - if I was using Outlook (at the moment I use Gmail, and was using Lotus Notes).

It is all Michael Hyatt's fault that I am considering GTD at all. I discovered his Working Smart blog for the first time today, and found a very interesting post on Eight Things You Can Do in a Meeting with a TabletPC (and the GTD add-in to MS Outlook).
[Edit: Here are the 8 things:
1. Take notes.
2. Enter tasks.
3. Ask questions via e-mail.
4. Make assignments via e-mail.
5. Look up information in computer files.
6. Look up information on the web.
7. Respond to urgent messages.
8. Keep my staff moving forward.]

Now, a TabletPC is one gadget I have wanted ever since I first heard of them, but it's nice to get the testimony of someone who is using one themselves, and isn't in IT. I have experimented with PDAs using PocketPC myself and always found them wanting (perhaps my hands are just too big?) so a TabletPC is the next logical step up.

Great PowerPoint Resources

I have been researching PowerPoint tools today and found some great blogs and resource links. So in the spirit of using this blog as a public post-it note, here they are:

Beyond Bullets

Beyond PowerPoint

Tony's PowerPoint Blog

Who Needs Information Design?

Power Point Answers

Michael Hyatt's PowerPoint Resources

If you know any other ones that are really good, feel free to leave a Comment with the URL/info.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Australia 30 defeat South Africa 26!!!

Go you good thing! The Wallabies beat the Springboks at Subiaco tonight!

Reviewing C#

Two of the guys at the Microsoft Portal event mentioned that their companies exlusively did .NET development in C#, which was also the language used in all of the labs. I'm familiar with VB.NET, but hadn't really bothered doing much with C#, we hadn't seen the need to at my previous workplace, and theoretically there is no difference which language you use in .NET as it is all compiled to MS Intermediate Language anyway.

However, the guys I talked to mentioned that changing to a less familiar .NET language was thought to help programmers remember that .NET is a completely new paradigm, and make the mental shift to it.
(Note: Clayton did mention that with v2.0 so close to release programmers who haven't made the shift yet might as well wait for it so as to not have to re-learn everything a second time)

So I bought a C# book for myself (C# Complete from Sybex, a very good deal as it includes the most relevant chapters from all of their other C# books for a third the price of any one of them) and sat down to read it this weekend.

I had barely noticed that we were using C# during the portal labs - partly because the code was already written for us, and partly because when you can program in VB6, VB.NET, LotusScript, Lotus Notes Formulas, JavaScript, VBA, PHP, ASP, Java, HTML, XSLT and Omnis7 then its easy to forget which one is strongly typed and which isn't, which ones requires characters to end a line and which don't and which ones are case sensitive and which aren't.

C# is case sensitive (which I hate, and like Java) and is strongly typed (which I like), it is also object oriented (which is good), requires semicolons (;) to end a line (mostly, another common point with Java, and Lotus Notes Formulas), and you try code and exceptions are thrown (also Java like).

So far I've yet to form an opinion as to whether I would like to program in it. It would certainly make me stop and consider what I was doing, but the decrease in productivity would take a while to overcome. Of course, I probably won't ever program in it, but it is always a good idea to know the tools your team might use.

Speaking of which, I really want to try Whidbey out, and aren't we overdue for a new version of Visual Studio?

Friday, July 30, 2004

Project Management Methodology

Due to the interviews I am now doing, and the fact that we eschewed formal management certifications at my previous workplace (due to a perceived low ROI), I have been looking for ways to describe how we managed projects to recruitment consultants - who are usually just looking for the right buzzwords (and quite rightly too, after all they can't be experts at everything). Unfortunately, I can't just say I'm PMP or PRINCE2 certified or that we based everything on PMBOK*.

What we did do was spend the last five years hammering out our proprietary methodology, based upon our collective Price Waterhouse Urwick and Andersen Consulting/Accenture experiences.

“Analysing this showed us that in many cases a task that had a 'generous' estimate given to it was not completed under budget, but in fact took up the whole of the time allocated. ”
In the last three years, we used Earned Value Management (EVM) methods to control our projects, which increased our ability to predict and control schedule and budget variances. We also played with Extreme Programming (XP) and other agile processes, but never approached them seriously.

We noticed that despite EVM's precision, we still did not always get the desired result. Projects still went over budget with alarming frequency (although we rarely went over the scheduled delivery date). Analysing this showed us that in many cases a task that had a 'generous' estimate given to it was not completed under budget, but in fact took up the whole of the time allocated.

Further analysis showed that this was a combination of people fitting other unplanned (and often nonchargeable) tasks into the time required for their project tasks, and people simply coasting or 'spinning their wheels' unnecessarily (e.g. over-engineering the solution because they had more time than required for the original design).

“Allowing buffer at the task level simply encourages people to use that buffer unnecessarily.”
The answer we were looking for, and had started to move towards, was Critical Chain Project Management, which removes buffer from individual tasks and allocates it to the project as a whole, thus concentrating resources on the task at hand.

Of course we had yet to perfect this method, but we had already recognised that:

  • People work better when they are not multi-tasking, and that the less time (not effort) we scheduled a project for, the less overruns we had. This also reduces issues with people working for multiple project managers, because they are more likely to be on one project at a time.

  • Project managers need to communicate better in order to ensure that people working across programs are available for the critical tasks whenever they might be able to start them - this required flexibility and honest appraisals of task criticality (sometimes the criticality to our company of that task/project would outweigh the criticality of another task that was more critical but for a less critical project).

  • Allowing buffer at the task level simply encourages people to use that buffer unnecessarily. It is much better to slim down the estimates they work to, and put buffer at the overall project level.

  • Buffering the scheduled delivery date will ensure that it is met, even if Murphy's Law hits the project.

    Where we still needed to improve was in the way we calculated the size of and tracked the use of buffers. However, it is interesting to see how our proprietary methodology mirrored recent changes in PMBOK (i.e. the introduction of EVM in the 2000 edition), and even included ideas from new methods such as Critical Chain Project Management without any of us attaining formal project management certifications.

    * You could say we did follow PMBOK, because the term is defined inclusively:
    “The Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK) is an inclusive term that describes the sum of knowledge within the profession of project management. As with other professions such as law, medicine and accounting, the body of knowledge rests with the practitioners and academics that apply and advance it.”
    PMBOK Guide - 2000 Edition
  • Wednesday, July 28, 2004

    Review: Once Upon a Time in Mexico

    Top of the head rating: 1/5

    I hired Once Upon a Time in Mexico last night. Blah ... it was one of the most boring action movies I have seen in ages.

    Good bits: Individually many of these scenes are fine, and some of the fun and pathos of the previous films is retained here.

    Bad bits: The girl dies, the editing is nightmarish and makes little sense, there is no dramatic tension built between scenes and the action and plot are so over the top that it is completely unbelievable (and that is from a fan of Desperado).


    One of the questions I asked at the portal airlift was how can we bring InfoPath forms (so nicely integrated into SharePoint) to users who don't have InfoPath? I was hoping that Clayton could give us the lowdown on Microsoft's plans for InfoPath, particularly a free browser plug-in for InfoPath consumers (leaving the full version for designers).

    Clayton had only heard the same vague rumours the rest of us had, but one of the guys from Unique World mentioned that they are developing InfoView:
    InfoView is an easy-to-use tool that coverts Web forms, designed in Microsoft’s InfoPath, into ASP.Net forms which are viewable through a standard Internet browser.
    This sounds very interesting as it opens up the use of InfoPath as a solution for any web form that requires some degree of workflow once it has been submitted.

    Friday, July 23, 2004

    ADVIS Web Parts

    ADVIS have some interesting FREE Web Parts for Sharepoint.

    Note to Self: Must ensure new workplace has SharePoint!

    Saturday, July 17, 2004

    Microsoft Portal and Integration Airlift Days 2 & 3

    OK, I've now completed the second and third days of the Microsoft Portal and Integration Airlift, or at least the bits I managed to attend between stomach bug and need to pack boxes to move this weekend!

    I'd like to post a lot of the new ideas that came out of it - but my wife has reminded me that it's VERY LATE and that I need to come to get to sleep right now! So I'll put some up tomorrow, or Sunday.

    The gist of it will be that MCMS is interesting, but is much more interesting when mixed with WSS/SPS 2003, and that there are some vendor products that can make life much easier for WSS developers (Metalogix's Migration Manager) and that can offer some nice digital asset management features on top of WSS (Scene7 for SharePoint 2003).

    There were also some SharePoint and CMS questions that Clayton Peddy answered, and some other questions (like license-free readers for InfoPath*) that other attendees pitched in on.

    * If you're from UniqueWorld I would really like to find out more about that InfoPath reader for ASP.NET ...

    Hi, I'm Eric and I'll be your software developer this evening

    Eric Lippert also has a great post about taking the blame for something you have done wrong. He credits his willingness to publicly do this on his father's restaurant business background, which made him teach his sons that how you deal with a mistake is almost as important as not making them.

    From the self-analysis I've been doing as part of my personal Good.Bad.Like.Dislike* analysis I think this is a lesson I need to go through once more.

    * Good.Bad.Like.Dislike is a tool my father uses to help people re-focus their efforts to better align their aspirations with their expectations. I might blog about this one day (or not ;-).

    Bankers' Rounding

    I came across Eric Lippert's blog again today, and (oh joy!) was reminded of a brilliant post of his that sorted out some rounding issues we had with MS Access 2000 for a payroll system where we had not accounted for VBA's wonderful Bankers' Rounding anomaly*.

    Microsoft Knowledgebase article #196652 explains rounding in even more detail - but is less clear if read first.

    The actual solution we used was based on Eric Bachtal's very elegant VBA rounding solution (it's a nice explanation with a solution using only 3 lines of code).

    * The 'anomaly' (or rather undocumented feature) is that when VBA rounds a .5 it rounds to the nearest even number above that decimal place - up or down. This leads to weird effects when you expect a bunch of numbers to round in the more 'normal' fashion, and find they don't.

    Thursday, July 15, 2004


    I want to go Jewelboxing and create some Super Jewel Box Packaging System - CD and DVD Cases. A toy that both designers and home users can appreciate. Now if I only had something worth putting in one (cue digital camera!).

    Differentiating Visited Links

    Keeping on-topic with web design and Jakob Nielsen's recommendations, he makes the point that a key part of the web's UI is that links can show you when they have been visited. He recommends that visited links appear in a darker, more subdued colour* than the normal links.

    I've recently come across two designers who have looked at using some of the features of CSS to make visited links even more obvious:

    CollyLogic: Ticked Off? Visited Links How-To
    Simon Collison shows how to use background images to create a visited "tick" to the right of your links.

    Mike Davidson: Making Visited Links Radical
    Mike Davidson takes a different approach and uses the radical √ symbol to indicate when a site has been visited.

    Both make the point that this method may not work for everyone, or for every link. For a start it can clutter up your body text and make it harder to read, but it can also confuse users as it is a non-standard implementation of the standard visited links UI paradigm (which is a big no-no according to Jakob Nielsen).

    Jakob's got a point - I know that I get confused by these sorts of UI changes, and will probably ignore them when surfing for information. Once this sort of change has been adopted by enough sites, then it becomes a de facto standard and then it is OK to use as most users will be aware of what it means.

    Another example of this sort of UI change is having some way of denoting when a link goes to an external site. The SSW website does this by placing a small blue globe and red arrow next to links that go away from their site. I found that confusing, but at least I wondered what it was before trying the link, and thus worked out what it was.

    Perhaps the visited link UI change would work better if it showed me an empty checkbox next to the link before I clicked on it, and then ticked it afterward. At least that way the user would work out what it was a bit faster. (another idea was to strikethrough the text once the links is visited)

    On the other hand, Jakob suggests that designers early adopt the Title attribute in anchor tags to show users more information about a link in a tooltip. Mostly this is because it doe snot harm users whose browsers don't support it, but also because it does add value to links. I've used it myself in the links above - did it work for you?

    [* Note: I am using Australian English spelling, hence the "-our".]

    Design Eye for the Usability Guy

    Design by Fire have posted a hilarious piece, called Design Eye for the Usability Guy which does a makeover on one of Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox articles.

    Jakob has a predeliction for annoying web designers by consistently calling for "plain vanilla" websites that are as usable as possible, and this is a fun attempt to take his usability guidelines and improve upon them using good design.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2004

    Microsoft Portal and Integration Airlift

    I went to the first session of the Microsoft Portal and Integration Airlift today. Unfortunately a stomach bug meant I had to go home early, but Clayton Peddy from Terrace Consulting did a great job customising the presentation to the skill levels of the attendees.

    [Note: I'm hopping back to bed now to try and sleep off the rest of the bug and be ready for tomorrow!]

    Bruce Sterling's blog

    Just stumbled across Bruce Sterling's blog at today (in case you wonder who he is, he's one of the early CyberPunk writers).

    SpaceShipOne 2004

    Here are some great photos of SpaceShipOne's first flight into space.

    Another great space site is the SpaceX website. I like the way these guys think. They want something affordable, small and that just gets the job done.

    Monday, July 12, 2004

    US firm spread hostage video

    SMEs often assume that they are too small to attract hackers, and so get lax about their IT security, this news story shows how wrong that idea can be.

    In this case al-Qaeda hackers used a small company's web server to host a hostage video - it means the company gets a lot of bad publicity, and would make you wonder how good the rest of their security is.


    I know it's a little boring, but I decided I needed to do some blogrolling, and added a blogroll to the bottom of the navbar area.

    Saturday, July 10, 2004

    Less is Moore

    The Sydney Morning Herald have a great article today critiquing Michael Moore's latest film, Farenheit 9/11.

    If you want to hear other stuff about this sleazy propagandist, try:

    Moore Exposed: a site exposing Moore's lies and hypocrisy.

    Michael Moore Hates America: a new documentary that sets out to do what Moore has done, but with a different bias.

    Friday, July 09, 2004

    Feeling Stupid

    Matt Warren points out that Feeling Stupid is a typical part of programming.

    “You feel stupid because you know many others have already figured it out, already understood and moved on, but you're still stuck trying to muddle through it.”
    I regularly feel this way when perusing the fantastic coding exampels put up by others. Partly that's going to be because programming is less than 10% of what I do, it has been a long time since it was more than that. But it's also because there is always someone that knows more than we do.

    This might be true of programming more than most disciplines, because it is an ever changing field of study. Matt describes it as this "discipline/art/science/voodoo magic thing that we do". Sometimes it seems like voodoo (pass the chicken Dave, I need to wave it over the keyboard a few more times), and sometimes it seems like art because a solution just feels right. Mostly it is a discipline, the study of which usually takes a back seat to the practice of it - which invariably leads to feeling stupid at some point.

    XML access to lists in Windows SharePoint Services

    Dustin Miller has this great post - Don't forget: Web Services/SOAP isn't the only path to XML from SharePoint. The key point is that the lists in WSS are exposed in their XML format by the owssvr.dll, so that you can view their XML in the web browser (of limited use) or use that URL as a source for the Data View web part in a different WSS site (kind of like a poor man's RSS feed).

    We had a client recently ask about how to bring data from multiple sites into one summary site, and we had looked at building a custom web part for that purpose. This gives us some other options.

    Note: At the moment this isn't working for me - it seems that the data view web part doesn't want to see this as a valid XML file.

    Thursday, July 08, 2004

    Pull Quotes on the Web

    Michael Pick has a good article called Pull Quotes and the Web, that addresses how to create pull quotes on web pages. Note that he has another page that has examples that work properly in IE.

    “79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across”
    Jakob Nielsen
    In order to play with this myself, I've added a pull-quote in one of styles Michael so graciously gives an example of. The quote is from a Jakob Nielsen article about how users read on the web.

    The main problem with pull-quotes is how to come up with the right quote. Sometimes you may need to massage your article to create punchy content that is worth quoting. While this may seem a waste of time, it will help you create more easily read web content - which is always a good thing, right? ;-)

    Wednesday, July 07, 2004

    Review: Troy

    Top of the head rating: 3/5

    I went to see Troy the other night, my wife graciously allowing me the time alone as we didn't have a babysitter. It was an ... okay ... movie, not great, but it didn't suck the way I thought it might have.

    Good bits: Brad Pitt as Achilles (no really!), Eric Bana as Hector (oozes determination), Sean Bean as Odysseus (bit young, but believably cunning) and Brian Cox as Agamemnon (he's always good at evil, especially since Rob Roy).

    Bad bits: Troy looks like it's made out of cardboard and foam, everywhere else looks small like a TV set. None of the women seemed real, although Rose Byrne is attractive enough. Also, they mutilated the plot, with lots of events happening out of order, or at the wrong place.

    Tuesday, July 06, 2004

    E-mail patterns map corporate structure

    Apparently some HP researchers believe that they can show that by analysing the To/From fields in an company's emails they can map the corporate structure.
    The researchers said graphing e-mail flow not only correctly identified communities within the organization, but it also provided insight into who the leaders of those groups were. It also helped to identify informal communities that arise when people need to communicate across departments or work collaboratively on projects. What's more, it took just a few hours to analyze the data and identify the groups and their leaders, the study said.
    I wonder how long it will take before someone comes up with nefarious uses for this? Perhaps selling it to corporate bosses who want to know who is really the leader of the pack amongst their employees? Of course the results would be skewed if the employees decided to resort to untraceable email from outside the organisation for their more sensitive emails ...

    On the other hand, the information they are reviewing seems pretty innocuous, after all it's just the To and From fields (perhaps also the CC and BCC, although the article doesn't mention them). I wonder if they could add date into the mix to track how relationships and patterns of influence change over time?

    WebDrive: Accessing SharePoint document libraries through drive letters

    Serge van den Oever points out that you can access SharePoint document libraries through drive letters using a tool called WebDrive from South River Technologies.

    One of the frustrations we have had with SharePoint is that whilst the integration with Office 2003 and Windows XP is very nice, the functionality available from Office 2000 and Windows 2000 (which is what most businesses we know still use) is sub-optimal.

    Being able to mal a drive letter to a document library takes the SharePoint document management solution to new heights. It will allow users to save documents to the library from any sort of Windows application, which is a great idea. Of course you still are left without the ability to populate meta tags when you do so, but you can work around that.

    Reminder to Self: More good technical links

    Continuing the salvaging of great links from my SharePoint sites before I leave here:

    Windows Forms .NET: The Official Microsoft Windows Forms Community Site
    A site promoting the new .Net Windows Forms that will come out in Whidbey (Visual Studio .Net 2005).

    A directory of Microsoft bloggers categorised by technology. Obviously I like the SharePoint, InfoPath, VB.NET and ASP.NET areas the most.

    The Occupational Adventure

    Curt Rosengren's blog The Occupational Adventure (sm) has a lot of worthwhile things to say about career passion, and life in general.

    One recent post titled Success through setting process goals, covers the idea of making the perfection of the process our goal (a process goal), rather than just having the end result as a goal (a product goal).

    He brings this to bear on how to get the career of your dreams (something I'm thinking about now as my retrenchment goes into effect next week).
    What kinds of process goals could you set to achieve the career of your dreams? How can you be in the moment and keep your eye on the map?
    I'm wondering again where my focus should be. By reviewing potential career paths through that lense of my strengths and weaknesses, like and dislikes I feel I can get where I want to be. So for me the process goal is to be as real and honest as possible with myself in this process, so that I get the most accurate view I can of where I can go from here.

    Sunday, July 04, 2004

    Right Focus

    My pastor was saying this morning that when we focus on something bad in our past, that can make us reproduce that thing in our future. The example he gave was a person who focussed on being different to their alcoholic, abusive father - but who ends up reproducing that behaviour themselves.

    His point was that it's not our emotional reaction to that past thing that matters, it's the fact that we focus on it that affects our future.

    I was reminded of something I was taught during a BMW Advanced Driver Training course. The instructors pointed out that people's tendencies in a crisis situation, for example when losing control on a corner and skidding towards a tree, was to focus on the bad thing (e.g. hitting the tree) and that their efforts to avoid the tree failed, because you go where you are looking.

    They taught us to drag our eyes off the tree and focus on where we want to go, because that gives a much better chance of actually getting there.

    In a similar way athletes are taught that when competing they should focus on the result they want to get, rather than on their past results.

    Sometimes it's tempting to dwell on past mistakes or "what if?" scenarios, but the reality is that they don't bear much relationship to our future. There is so much that each of us can and will achieve that goes way beyond what the limits of our past would indicate. So look forward to your future, and leave the past in the past!

    Saturday, July 03, 2004

    800-CEO-READ Blog

    Here is an interesting blog for you; 800-CEO-READ Blog is a blog run by a bookstore for CEOs (or really anyone interested in business thinking, examples etc.) and they have a team of authors that write for the blog.

    I would never have found this site if not for the trackback feature that Cliff Atkinson has on his blog. This is certainly something I look forward to having Blogger offering.

    Friday, July 02, 2004

    Great SharePoint Blogs

    There are a number of great SharePoint bloggers around. As I am leaving my current workplace, I won't have access to the SharePoint sites we had created to track these bloggers' efforts. So for my own sake (and perhaps your interest) I'll list some of the better ones here.

    Jan Tielens' Bloggings
    .Net, InfoPath, BizTalk, Web Services and SharePoint - good stuff with relevant screenshots. Notable additions include:
    * Workflow Lite for SharePoint
    * SmartPart for SharePoint (enables GUI design for web parts)

    Bryant Likes's Blog
    Has developed a set of SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services web parts.

    Tim Heuer's Blog
    Great web part guru, offers lots of stuff for free, the best of which is his free RSS feed reader.

    Patrick Tisseghem's Blog
    A .Net developer who covers a lot of stuff on building web parts, using InfoPath and general .Net.

    Sig Weber's Playground (aka. "Extreme SharePoint'ing" or: doing more with less)
    A .Net developer doing lots of stuff with SharePoint, Exchange, IE, Outlook, Office and Windows - especially 2003 editions of those. BTW, his site runs on WSS.

    Stramit's SharePoint Blog
    SPS and WSS material. He has done a GUI tool for the smigrate.exe tool called GuiSMigrate and another for the spin.exe (document import tool) called GuiSpin.

    Mike Walsh's WSS Blog

    Some useful material, but he seems to concentrate mainly on his WSS FAQ.

    Some particularly good FAQ sites exists as well:

    Windows Sharepoint Services FAQ
    Mike Walsh's WSS FAQ site, and one of the largest. Can be confusing to find what you want, but is generally a good starting point.

    WSS Demo Site (developer FAQ)
    Ian Morrish's WSS demo site, has lots of articles on development, tracks the latest SharePoint KB articles from Microsoft, etc.

    SharePoint Portal Server FAQ
    Great FAQ for anyone using SPS (2001 or 2003).

    Thursday, July 01, 2004

    Generating RSS Feeds for SharePoint Sites

    Jan Tielens has come up wth a web part that will generate RSS feeds for SharePoint sites based on the What's New web part that he has already created (so the RSS news feed shows what's new on the web site).

    The really nice thing is not that Jan has provided this web part free of charge, but that he is supplying the source code as well! That saves the rest of us a lot of time when we want something similar, but (inevitably) different in some way.

    What is SharePoint 2003?

    Maxim Karpov's What is SharePoint 2003? article is a great intro for anyone who doesn't yet have their head around what Microsoft are talking about when they say "SharePoint".

    The short answer for those of you allergic to following links is that:
    "SharePoint" is therefore a set of technology products, which allows us to manage our intellectual property (documents, presentations, etc.) and enables virtual teams to collaborate on the information. Technology has changed, but our need for managing and providing access to information is still with us!
    Of course I already did know this answer, but Max explains it so neatly that it's a useful link to keep around.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2004

    The Unpolished PowerPoint

    Cliff Atkinson's Beyond Bullets blog has all sorts of interesting presentation ideas on it, especially around PowerPoint slides. In the The Unpolished PowerPoint he discusses three polish principles from Henry Boettinger:
    1. As the need to inform an audience increases, the greater should be the degree of finish.
    2. As an audience's power to approve increases, the lower should be the degree of finish.
    3. The larger the audience, the greater should be the degree of finish.

    Interestingly, Jakob Nielsen mentions a similar effect in his Top Ten Guidelines for Homepage Usability Alertbox article. His point is:

    Don't Over-Format Critical Content, Such as Navigation Areas
    You might think that important homepage items require elaborate illustrations, boxes, and colors. However, users often dismiss graphics as ads, and focus on the parts of the homepage that look more likely to be useful.

    In this case the web site audience clearly has the ability to approve your content, and either hang around your web site, or go elsewhere. By Henry's 3 principles they should not be given too finished a product as they will need to feel they have not been bamboozled into making the wrong decision.

    Of course, this applies to marketing in interestng ways too. At the beginning of the sales cycle, the customer is looking more for information about products than for specific information about why they should decide to buy your product.

    If that's right, then providing polished content works well when people are just looking to be informed, but the same presentation method will work less well when they want to make their decision. I wonder if there are any actual examples that prove this out? Traveller Link

    I wanted to get this image uploaded, so here it is. It's the link button I give people to link the the T20 portion of my website.

    Falkayn's Blog

    I've been playing with the blog's template and other options recently. Notably, you can now comment on posts, if you're a registered user.

    Tuesday, June 29, 2004

    John Porcaro: Know. Feel. Do.

    John Pocaro mentions Bill Jensen's Know, Feel, Do style of email writing.

    I like the way they summarise what you need to say in the first little bit of the email. It's funny but I'm pretty sure that one of John's example emails is a tad longer than his own advice recommends! (it is sure hard to do when you have to tell people a lot)

    England is O2

    The Kiwis weren't too kind when the England team was finished their (losing) tour of NZ. Posted by Hello

    Hello the PhotoBlogger

    Hmmm ... must remember to look into Hello the PhotoBlogger, it sounds like a great tool.

    John Porcaro

    John Porcaro is a Microsoft marketer. I like his style and obvious enthusiasm for the job. Worth checking out fromtime to time ...

    Tuesday, March 16, 2004

    American culture

    A very nice definition of American culture, and it has some interesting culture references for Aussies, Kiwis, etc.

    Thursday, March 04, 2004

    Men speak in C; Women speak in Java.

    Here is a very funnny post on men/women differences -> Men speak in C; Women speak in Java. Especially nice is a female geek's contribution to the explanation - VERY enlightening!

    Monday, February 16, 2004

    The Passion of the Christ

    I am still not sure how I feel about The Passion of the Christ, but I do feel it is worth seeing to make up your own mind.

    Thursday, February 12, 2004

    Stephen Wolfram: A New Kind of Science

    This must be one of the more interesting discoveries I have made recently. Not sure if I will devote the time necessary to come to grips with it, but putting it here will certainly remind me of it.

    Tuesday, February 03, 2004

    Hey, a nice web site!
    Which Chow Yun Fat character am I?

    Replacement Killer
    You are John Lee, exotic assassin from The
    Replacement Killers
    . Often, you feel as if
    everyone around you is speaking a strange
    foreign language. You speak tersely, going
    directly for what you want without much
    preamble. Watch out for men with submachine
    guns that look like briefcases.

    Which Chow Yun Fat Are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla