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August 2007 - Posts

Revisiting content management: Just build what you need!

Back in 2001 when I got laid-off from my job and started learning what this new .Net thing was all about, my first attempt at building something was a CMS that could do "everything." When I look back at it, well, it pretty much did do everything. You could drop in a UserControl that did whatever you need. It was like Sharepoint before Sharepoint.

And it took a long time to get it right. It has been reliably running CoasterBuzz for nearly five years, but it never needed to be what it was. What do you suppose was in there 95% of the time? Just a bunch of HTML.

So I started to hack out something new, given my vastly more developed skill set, and it's a fraction of the code, mostly the same functionality, and took almost no time to build. Looking back, I can see that I've spent so much of my time trying to account for every scenario I can think of instead of just addressing the one sitting right in front of me.

I can attribute this mindset in part because I've always wanted to build stuff that other people can use, which was largely a mistake because I never really did sell much of it. Building a product for everyone often satisfies no one, and I should know that more than anyone since I've always been the primary user of the stuff I've built.

We get so wrapped up in frameworks and "solutions" and other nonsense and it does little more than bog you down. I hate feeling like that. You can build things in a "smart" way without resorting to curing cancer.

It's liberating, and a lot easier to maintain. 

Improved power management for iPhone?

Ever since the 1.0.2 update for the iPhone, described only as "bug fixes," I'm getting crazy better battery life from it. I was comfortably charging it every two to three days before, but now even after two days and a fair amount of iPod use, it's lasting much longer. I wonder if they tweaked the power management? 

Posted: Aug 29 2007, 09:54 AM by Jeff | with no comments
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Off-shoring and visa worker nonsense

I saw a TV spot today from this organization claiming a big conspiracy against American workers by evil corporate America to off-shore jobs or importation of foreigners for those jobs. What a load of crap. (Watch the sad little spot on their site... How are they gonna make that house payment? Maybe by selling that $40,000 car!)

First off, the Department of Labor Statistics shows that unemployment has been on the decline for four years. For that matter, it's still much better than it has been for most of the last three decades.

This kind of noise is caused mostly by tech workers. The problem is that in the post-bubble era that everyone wants that dotcom paycheck, but they can't do the work. Programmers are the most guilty of this.

I realize that it varies from one market to the next, but at least here in Northeast Ohio (Cleveland and Akron), there is no shortage of work. I get calls from recruiters constantly, even though I tell them I'm engaged in a gig I intend to keep for the time being.

Being on the other side of it, I interviewed a great many people in my last contract gig, and was amazed at how inept nearly all of the candidates were. Maybe it's because of that consulting environment, where people don't have the long-term mentoring and training opportunities. I don't really know. But they want big dollars and can't code their way out of a cardboard box.

And this is where you enter the foreigners. The average Indian or Asian worker on a visa here is eager and willing to learn. Frankly you need these people because there aren't enough qualified Americans to fill those jobs.

When I look at that refuting evidence, it reminds me of the immigration "debate" and makes me feel that this is just people directing their hate toward non-Americans. That's about the last thing we need. It's not constructive. Welcome to the global economy. We're not the only kids in the sandbox. The sooner we learn that and start competing, instead of implementing this protectionist bullshit, the sooner we'll be in better shape.

Facebook app for iPhone... wow!

Leave it to the cats at Facebook to deliver a very nice iPhone experience. Given the site's media-centric approach of photos and other nonsense, it's a great fit to the iPhone, which is all about photos and other nonsense!

You login and get the feed just as you would normally. I see that Skydiving Jeff has uploaded pictures from Busch Gardens, so I check them out. And amazingly enough, the photo gallery works almost as well as the onboard photo app, only with captions. It even rotates and expands the pictures when you rotate the phone! Well done. Very well done.

Also sweet, it'll now allow me to send photos by way of e-mail from the iPhone, in the absence of MMS functionality on the phone.

The interesting thing to me about the iPhone and Web browsing is that the UI of the device has influenced navigation. This isn't something I really expected. It's one of the many example of how constraints can actually be a good thing, to force you to think harder about how to build something efficiently that users like.

It sure would be sweet if someone built an ASP.NET library along these lines. I'd endeavor to do so myself if I could find some decent documentation on the little iPhone Safari quirks that make the magic possible. 

Icky PHP from Facebook

While I certainly realize that ugly code can be written in any language on any platform, the found PHP code from Facebook is exceptionally gross. I can't even imagine looking at code and having to face that.

Web is hanging out where the puck has been

I was listening to This Week In Tech this morning, as they were talking about various services and Web sites they use. It occurred to me that, while many of these sites are very fascinating, most are me-too at best, or worthless at worst.

Certainly you're familiar with Wayne Gretzky once saying that he skates to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been. (I can't prove that, but I'm sure it's online somewhere.) Well, so much of what makes headlines out there has been done many times over. Everyone wants to have social networking now. Sorry, but unless Facebook makes some colossal mistake, you're too late. The party is over. All of this link sharing and super high tech community junk is neat, but how much do you need?

The problem is that everyone wants to create the next thing that is everything to everyone. Aside from building something you can sell to Google or Microsoft, why the hell would you want to do that? More to the point, why are VC's giving you money? I'll never quite understand it.

I run niche community sites. They've served their audiences well since before the first dotcom bust, and frankly haven't even had to evolve that much (which bothers me, but apparently bothers others less). There is still something to be said for a small community. It's one thing to go out for attention whoring and saying you have a million friends, but what value is that to people?

I guess the point of this post is simply that even as someone who loves Web technology, so much of what is being put out there is just pointless and without a market. At least people seem to have stopped using the term "mash up."

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