Apr 24

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-04-24

  • Kicking off a week of all-day meetings!!! #
  • Wonder no more about why we web developers choose to do things the hard way: the latest @wtfawd explains it all! http://t.co/ck9EgNh #
  • Uh oh. Yamaha RXV-1600 A/V Receiver is not powering on. Have had a rash of power outages lately, thanks to lots of nearby construction. 🙁 #
  • Most books about mixing are like advice marbles in a jar. @mixerman 's "Zen and the Art of Mixing" fills in all the space between them. #
  • So far my visit to @alehousedenver is extremely positive: http://plixi.com/p/94328301 #
  • I cry a little whenever someone in a fine craft beer establishment says, "do you have any really *light* beers?" :'( #
  • Why does my local #homebrew store finally get my special order in one day before I go out of town! Oh well, a good reason to come home! #
  • I did it! I've listened to all 200+ episodes of the delightful @basicbrewing podcast! Thanks for all the great education, James! Cheers! #
  • I wonder what @brantsteen is going to do this weekend without me around to record @wtfawd? #
  • I need to seriously crowd-source luck in the next 24 hours. If you have any to spare, please search online for "Tim L White +luck". Thanks! #
  • Advice I need to remember more often: "Speak the Truth; But Only of the Good in Others". #
Apr 17

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-04-17

  • If you haven't seen Colbert's interview with James Franco, hunt it up. Tolkien fanboy nerdery as well as general intellectual nerdery. #
  • I feel like I've had Brain Cloud like Tom Hanks in Joe vs. The Volcano for the last three weeks, and I'm finally starting to see some sun… #
  • Somehow my iTunes just shuffled up a non-"Final Countdown" track from Europe that I didn't even know I had. It's been deleted. #
  • Are you an aspiring web developer? Ever wondered what the foo you were doing? Listen to the new @wtfawd podcast with me and @brantsteen ! #
  • Oh golly – @CaptSpectacular is getting the puberty voice crack! I need to find that Simpson's episode "Your taco fell in the fryer!" #
  • Rewatching Robin Hood: Men in Tights, I realize what Your Highness was missing: Dave Chappelle, and jokes that are funny outside the film. #
  • Reviewing technical documentation, I'm again reminded that accuracy at the expense of clarity == useless documentation. #
  • The hop garden is planted! Fresh hops for #homebrewncome fall! – http://twitpic.com/4lqbpw #
  • The hop garden is planted! Fresh hops for #homebrew come fall! – http://twitpic.com/4lqbpw #
  • Did you know that Robert Ridgely, voice of Thundarr the Barbarian, played the executioner in Robin Hood: Men in Tights? Hmmmm!? #
  • Family LotRO time. @CaptSpectacular is very jumpy this morning. He's like the Tigger of virtual characters! #
Apr 15

New Podcast – WTFAWD!

 Hey there –

  Brant Steen from the now-defunct “TrapCast”, and I from the now-defunct “Return to Northmoor” have created a new podcast on a wholly different topic.

  We both felt like we said what we had to say on the tabletop gaming front, and now we’re turning our attention to the world of web software development.

  Unlike Return to Northmoor, the new show “WTFAWD” is an uncensored, conversational take on very complex topics.

  The best part of the show is that Brant and I share a common passion for making things on the Internet, but are at two different places in our careers.  Brant just started his first “real” software job about a year ago, while I’m just a few months away from year 20 of mine.

 As you can imagine, this leads to some lively conversation as we compare stories from the frontlines of our very different worlds.

 We do share something interesting though – despite both of us working professionally as software developers, I got my undergraduate college degree in Russian Literature, Brant got his in Psychology.

 I was already working as a software developer in college to pay the bills – I finished my degree in 3.5 years working 20-40 hours a week fixing computers and writing software for my current employer…so there were a lot of things that fell by the wayside in my college life.  Happily employed, I never went on to get a computing degree, despite several attempts to muster the tolerance for BS required to do so.

 Brant however, got a Masters in computing, and is working on a Masters in Business Computing Administration, which is quite wise of him.

 So our perspectives are both from people with liberal arts backgrounds who went on to do computing full time, one with a lifetime of experience, and the other with a degree.

 We learn a lot from each other, and try to share what we’re learning with you in every episode.

 If you are curious about the title of the podcast – it’s an allusion to the question we ask ourselves at least every few hours doing web development – “What the foo are we doing?!”  We ask ourselves that a lot, and we thought we’d share our confusion and it’s resolution with you! 

 Check out the new show at http://wtfawd.com !

Apr 15

Software Generalists vs. Specialists and the Instant Reference

I’ve been working on a number of software projects, the most notable of which is podiobooks 2.0.

Podiobooks.com is a very popular site for downloading free audiobooks.

Many of the books offered first for free on podiobooks.com have gone on to become NYT bestsellers.

We’re building this project using the Python web development framework “Django“.

But like any modern web project, the “main” development is only part of the story.

There’s also Cascading Style Sheets version 3 (CSS3), Hypertext Markup Language version 5 (HTML5), JavaScript, the jQuery JavaScript framework, SQL, the Apache and NGINX webservers, unix scripts to start and stop things, and the Hudson continuous integration server to help us test and release code with some degree of quality.  Not to mention doing most of that across multiple browsers targeting multiple end-user devices (Desktops, iPads, iPhones, etc.)

Building a modern web application is a lot like building a house – it’s not just a bunch of wood nailed together.  There’s drywall, paint, windows, a foundation, a roof, plumbing, electrical, and a whole lot more.

In construction, it’s often broken out into speciality trades, who work on a given house only long enough to get the electrical in, and then move on to the next project.

Because applications need constant tweaking, and because the standards for building them are evolving at an incredible rate (the 2×4 for home construction hasn’t materially changed for 30 years – I haven’t built a web app will the same components for more than a year in a row).

So it means that if you are an experienced web developer, your brain has to be split across a whole lot of different “trades”, each with their own nuances.  And, just like a “general contractor” isn’t going to be as good an electrician as a guy who is a Master Electrician, your “general web developer” isn’t going to be as good at any one of the parts of web development.

So when someone asks me to write out a piece of code for them, it’s unlikely I’ll be able to do so without the handy reference of Google to look up the fine details.

On the other hand, I have more than enough experience to know what I need to look up.

It’s interesting to me that the more you do work in the real world, the broader your world becomes, and the harder it is to do just one thing.

It’s also interesting that the power of the instant reference makes it possible to learn new things and actually use them, because you don’t have to rely on being able to hold 100 different bits in pieces in your mind, or to thumb through a set of tomes for each new tool.

That’s not to say there’s no room for specialists – quite the opposite.  At some point, there’s a whole different personality needed to do certain tasks.  Database work that has no UI tends to appeal to different people than art-intensive layout and design.

So on big teams, I definitely rely on the guidance and work of specialists, but someone (usually me) has to be able to hold the big picture in their head, and make sense of it all…otherwise you end up with a bunch of excellent pieces that don’t work together at all.

I think we are starting to get to the point where companies hire generalists, and then contract out specialties.  Which is much the same way that the house construction industry works.

The difference in my mind though is not that this has happened through the emergence of lasting standards (although that has helped a bit), but through the power of the instant reference…

Apr 10

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-04-10

  • Thanks to @doycet for helping @Kim_Stone and @CaptSpectacular and I in overcoming the quirks of the "Retake Weathertop" instance in LoTRO! #
  • Sweating boy pulling wagon is cursing a blue streak. Observing Priest: "God is everywhere!" Boy:"Tell him to get out of the wagon and help!" #
  • Thanks to @jaybee63 for helping us see something we wouldn't have seen for a year, otherwise. And, for generally being cool. #
  • Music/nerd trivia crossover: Robia LaMorte, "Jenny Calendar" from Buffy: TVS, was one of the "twin" lead dancers in Prince's "Cream" video. #
  • Nothing like coming in to a fresh day with your new boss steamed at you. #
  • I awoke this morning with visions of a game with the structured feel of a dungeon crawl, but using story patterns instead of rooms. #
  • But without the cheese and utter predictability of a Living City-type game. #
  • And rather with the cheese of "dramas" like CSI, Hot Fuzz, & Whedonverse #
  • The key difference, I think is the way the characters fit the story; e.g. Hot Fuzz wouldn't work w/o Sgt. Angel being a prig. #
  • Well @ManMadeMoon 's "Source Code" was everything I hoped for. I love how he's not afraid to tackle the "mystery solved, and now what…?" #
  • Also it was great to see comedian @therealrussellp in Source Code. He's funny stuff! #
  • It stands for "Creative Commons", not "Closed Captioned"! – http://twitpic.com/4iuftz #
  • I helped @danielsolis with his Kickstarter: Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple – A Storytelling Game: http://kck.st/fwk4DD #
  • Pike's Peak looks amazing this morning! http://plixi.com/p/91263714 #
  • Just played an impromptu concert with my 6-yo neice. I wanted to call our band "Unicorn Poop", she vetoed in favor of "Fun Band". #
  • When I explained our band's name change, the audience muttered "They changed their name when they sold out!" #
  • We played 3 songs (me:guitar; her:stream of consciousness beat poetry): "Peace", "Squash for Dinner" (protest song), "Birthday Song for Dad" #
Apr 03

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-04-03

  • I just got the @AppSumo "How to Actually use Google Analytics Video" for Free (normally $25). Get yours: http://appsumo.com/tweet/ #
  • Programming my DAW to play drum patterns since my rhythm reading is as rusty as a Hawaiian truck bumper. #
  • Planning my next #homebrew Thinking about using Colorado-grown organic hops: http://bit.ly/i4a0HR #
  • I am missing Patrick Rothfuss's books. Feels like they were the only things keeping me sane lately… http://bit.ly/egdOaH #
  • Wish my brain handled abstract logic problems more effectively on it's own, instead of immediately jumping to how to build a robot to solve. #
  • Oh Adobe, your products used to be the reason to buy a Mac. Now they are the 2nd most annoying products on the platform. 🙁 #
  • Finally home to greet a poor, powerless house. Poor little house! All you have without power is the ticking of a battery-operated clock… #
  • Folks, @ManMadeMoon is the guy who made the superb indie SCIENCE-fic movie "Moon". His new movie "SOURCE CODE" premieres near you TOMORROW! #
  • As @ebertchicago says: Movies with PLOTS are a THREATENED genre! Don't let them DIE! #
  • There are now 5 people named Tim White at my merged company, including one that just got promoted to VP. I am already getting his email. #
  • Comic Sans for everyone!!! http://bit.ly/eMKPCB #
  • Why is Winger's "Miles Away" stuck in my head!!? #
  • Hop plant rhizomes are in at @DryDockBrewing ! Time to get out and dig in the dirt… #
  • Disappointed wtth the bug in the LoTRO Retake Weathertop Instance that prevented @CaptSpectacular, @Kim_Stone and I from completing it. 🙁 #
  • Bug detail: Note boss Rigul is dead next to my feet. Note that the is also standing in front of me 30 feet away. http://twitpic.com/4gk8tr #