Monday, April 23, 2007

Coda: Awesome Looking New Dev Tool

Wow! Panic, the Mac development shop will the coolest shopping cart system ever just announced what looks like a tremendously useful web development tool called Coda.



Lots of great features, but I especially like the built-in terminal, and how it nicely bundles all of your files, access credentials and other assets into a collection for each site. Just as a purely organization aid, I love that concept. Anyhow, my download is almost done, I have to go play with it!

Screenshot:

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Dave Coustan on Corporate Blogging at EarthLink

Jenerous.com has a good interview of Dave Coustan, former writer for HowStuffWorks.com and full-time blogger for EarthLink for the past 1 1/2 years.

This podcast's a good insight into "Corporate Blogging" at a company that serves over 5 million paying subscribers, with ~2,000 employees.

Dave's a great guy with a rare knack for effectively conveying techie concepts to humans.

With a few hundred employees, roughly 1% of world-wide web traffic going through one of the online destinations we serve, Internet Brands isn't the smallest fish in the pond, yet perhaps the "Biggest Internet Company the World's Never Heard of".

In certain ways it's "strategically neat" to stay below the radar. Yet it occasionally hurts us when it comes to "attracting developers". While not exactly a "corporate blog", ibbydev aims to bring an occasional geek-friendly glimpse into the stuff we do behind the scenes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Friday, April 6, 2007

Recruiting: The Acronym Soup Phenomenon

Joel Spolsky has on many occasions mused about the challenges of attracting and retaining great developers. In my ever so irrelevant opinion, Joel's one of those few hiring managers who "get it". He's been in the coding trenches, and has a keen understanding of how developers think, and some strong strategies for attracting new talent.

In his "Sorting Resumes" article, Joel points out:
To top programmers, the most maddening thing about recruiters is their almost morbid fascination with keywords and buzzwords.


... and further explains:
The keywords section of a resume can’t be trusted much, anyway: every working programmer knows about these computer programs that filter resumes based on keywords, so they usually have a section of their resume containing every technology they have ever touched, solely to get through the filters.


Having endured the challenges of filling various developer positions in my team, I can most vividly relate to this problem, affectionately (less so these days) calling it the "Acronym Soup Phenomenon" (ASP).

Invariably, candidates feel the urge to fill their skills section with a slew of Acronyms, claiming in one fell swoop "Expert Knowledge of" areas ranging from front-end Document Authoring and User Interface Engineering, to Database Administration, Systems and Network Engineering.

While Great Developers with amazing breadth and depth of experience are out there, Joel's articles and empirical evidence teach us that odds are likely they didn't send you the pile of Acronym-ladden resumes you're looking at, assuming they even have an updated resume.

As an example, seeing "XML, XSLT, and XPath" in a candidate's Acronym Soup, I would look forward to discussing the potential merits or shortcomings of an XML Database with an XPath or XQuery API for storing and exposing syndicated XML content to applications ... Only to find them shying away from writing on the whiteboard a sample expression for a "foo" element child of a "bar" element.

AJAX is a hot acronym that shows-up in everyone's soup, and one would think most "AJAX developers" coming-in for a User Interface Engineer position would have by now read Jesse James Garrett's piece or acquired a little more knowledge and/or practical experience than copying script.aculo.us code samples.

When asking candidates about what they think AJAX is, 30% can indeed spell out what the acronym means, and one candidate so-far was able to give a slightly interesting description of the various technologies and schools of thoughts that make it up, while showing cursory knowledge of various DOM methods or the XmlHttpRequest object.

Some candidates might casually mention they "slipped" AJAX in the skills section because they're interested in learning it. That's how hot AJAX is.

As a result of the Acronym Soup Phenomenon, a resume with less buzzwords focusing on a specific discipline tied to the open position, is more likely to get attention.

When interviewing at any decent company, it's fair to expect candidates will be asked to demonstrate the appropriate level of expertise to their prospective colleagues.

Upon passing the screening process with a rich Acronym Soup, bring patience to the interview and we'll provide water, food and a sleeping bag: we'll want to know how thick it is. Not because we're sadists with nothing better to do, but rather because we run a lot of applications, both internally and customer-facing, serving a myriad of business needs on a wide variety of code bases: PHP on a LAMP stack, ASP .Net, Java/Servlet Container, Java/EJB Container, Spring+Hibernate, DWR. Breadth of experience with adequate depth won't go wasted.

And yes ... we "do" AJAX.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Reviewing Google Desktop for Mac

Google today just released Google Desktop for Mac.

TheAppleBlog.com has a good review of it.

QuickSilver and Spotlight users may wonder where Google Desktop fits-in, and from using all 3 apps, here are some guesses:

- Spotlight is a simple view into Mac OS X's real-time file-system-based indexing technology: Every time you save something on your Mac, Mac OS X detects this "event", and tells Spotlight to "index" or "re-index" the file in real-time. This is why it's possible to create a text file anywhere on your hard drive, type some text in it, save it ... and searching for that text in spotlight instantly reveals the file you just created. More importantly though, Spotlight will find just about any piece of information stored in just about any document on your hard drive, whether it lives in the file name, or in the file itself.

- QuickSilver leverages Spotlight to near-instantly keep track of installed Applications, but also various types of documents fitting certain categories. From here though, QuickSilver is far more about "Acting Without Thinking" than it is about merely "Finding Stuff":
In the end, Quicksilver has one very important effect: the effort of frequent tasks fades into the background and you are able to act without thinking. After an adaptation period, Quicksilver becomes an extension of yourself; the process fades away leaving only the results.
In this sense, QuickSilver and Spotlight are very complementary technologies.

- Google Desktop for Mac, however, appears to be reindexing the entire hard drive without so-much relying on the "live index" being kept by Spotlight. This isn't entirely surprising as Google may be leveraging custom indexing and searching algorithms to surface more relevant results than Spotlight otherwise would.

As a good neighbor though, the Google Desktop Preferences pane indicates that Google Desktop will obey all no-indexing privacy directives specified in Spotlight, which is a nice integration touch.

It will be interesting to see whether Google Desktop will pick-up "real-time" changes to the file system the same way Spotlight does.

Similarly to its Windows counterpart, it runs a web service that appears to solely bind to localhost on port 7468, which is reassuring. The last thing you want is for someone on your network to query your hard drive. Trying to connect to port 7468 to my LAN IP from another machine on the network did, as I was hoping, refuse the connection.

If it does deliver on speed and results relevance, Google Desktop might if anything be more of a "replacement" for using Spotlight for day-to-day file searches, while providing a more elegant integration framework of Mac OS X with the overall Google Ecosystem.