The problem with getting some input…

About three weeks ago I sent an e-mail to all my colleagues with a company blog. In the e-mail I asked for anything extraordinary caused by their blogs. So far I only received only a few responses. I let that settle a bit and I have come to the following possible reasons for the lack of response:

  • Nothing special happened.
  • People don’t care.
  • I ended up in a spam filter or got snowed under piles of other e-mail.

Lets review each of the items in the above list.

Nothing special happened
Well then that would be a shame. This could mean a few things:

  • Nobody is reading it because it’s just not interesting.
  • Nobody is finding it because it’s just not findable.

Both would be harsh conclusions if you ask me. Since the keyword count seems high at the blogs of my colleagues and I do believe that my company employes a lot of smart people. While I can not look into the server logs of the different blogs a few colleagues do have a stat counter on their page. Reviewing these shows that, while there is not a whole lot of activity, there are quite a few revisiting ip-s showing up. So my best guess would be that the blogs are just not indexed properly. Lets just put this on my TODO list for this week.

People don’t care
Another possible reason could be that people just don’t care about their blogs. “Nobody is reading my entries, so why would I care about my blog?” Let’s just say that I don’t think that’s the kind of people working at my employer, lets hope not. Then there is only one other alternative I think, people just didn’t care enough about my request. After-all it was a simple e-mail message. With about 14 addressees. The thought that someone else will have responded enough comes to mind. Luckily I got this cell phone here with all their numbers on it. So yet again, another one for next week. Let’s call some people, give them that little personal touch. Should work I think.

I ended up in a spam filter or got snowed under piles of other e-mail.
Spam filter? No way, it was an internal message to other internal accounts. Snowed under? Very likely. So like I said, my to-do list contains the following item: Haunt Query come colleagues about their blogs by phone.

I’m hoping to hear some statements like: “Oh yeah I read that, I must have missed it because I get heaps of other messages.” You know what I mean, the lame sounding excuses for someone not running their inbox to the best of their abilities. Perhaps I should do a blog entry on that too sometime. (Like nobody else did that before.)

First steps with Ruby on Rails

Ruby on Rails project logoAs any self respecting software developer I jumped on the Rails bandwagon too. It will probably not be something I will be using a lot in the near future, but staying informed never hurts.

So of I went to a local bookstore to do some browsing and this resulted in purchasing a book called Agile Web Development with Rails: A Pragmatic Guide (Pragmatic Programmers) by Thomas and Hansson. The upper left corner says “The Pragmatic Programmers”, which resulted in me feeling good about buying this book, since I loved “The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master“.

Agile Web Development with Rails: A Pragmatic Guide (Pragmatic Programmers)The Rails book is very well written. I have not gone through it yet from cover to cover. Right now it’s the book I’m reading at home when I require some privacy. 😉 I find a toilet a place of serenity and quiet contemplation. Or an excellent place to focus one’s complete attention to the contents of a book.

I am running a PowerBook G4 here with OSX. And as the book stated, OSX comes with Ruby pre-installed but requires some tinkering. I opted for the latest Ruby version. So I went with a OpenDarwin Ruby/RubyGems/Rails install. No problem in that area.

The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to MasterNext up was a database. The Rails book says MySQL is good. So I go with that, although I think an in process DB like SQLite would do just as well for me. Let’s just say it’s been a while since I did a MySQL install. Although it isn’t really necessary as far as I am aware, but I couldn’t get network connectivity to work with MySQL 5. Turned out to be really stupid. Of-course I need to give a user the right on the MySQL instance to actually connect through the network.

Once I got MySQL sorted the fun could begin. Right now I just about finished building the web-shop cart. See, the book uses a simple e-shop as an example. Through the course of about 8 chapters you can build a basic shopping experience. I like this tutorial approach when taking my first steps with a new framework.

MySQL logoIn the end I guess I will get a pretty decent overview of Rails. And while I do get the feeling Rails can be a huge timesaver, it does still feel awkward to me that you should do it the Rails way or preferably not with Rails at all. The whole programming by sensible default is still a bit jarring. I guess because I am more used to rocket science style over-engineered Java systems. Not the most effective use of Java in my opinion. But hey, I’m no software architect yet, so why should anyone listen to my opinion. 😉 Also I can’t quite get that Ruby syntax in my fingers yet. Perhaps I should look into buying the pickaxe book too.

I am very curious about where Ruby on Rails will be in a few years. Although many people claim that it’s not ready for prime-time yet, that it’s still a technology too new for “enterprise implementations”. (That’s one term for your BS-bingo list.) I think that Ruby on Rails may actually be further along and actually quite capable and ready for prime-time. I guess time will tell. It is an interesting framework and takes some refreshing approaches, so even when you are not going to use it this or next year do take a peak at it. Most likely some of the concepts of Ruby on Rails will actually be useful for your regular dayjob.

Oh and about the book, yes it is an excellent read on Ruby on Rails if you like a tutorial style read.

The stage is set, pieces are moving… and I need pictures!

My Naked Conversations presentation is set. I always work better with a deadline. On the 2nd of August I will be presenting to my fellow co-workers. Now to actually start making the presentation. What is the plan:

  • The presentation should last 45 minutes, with an extra 20 minutes for questions at the end.
  • Motivate my co-workers to blog and to blog the right way (to my opinion offcource.
  • Provide a motivation for our company to blog. A lot of people wonder why we should actually do this.
  • Review the current blogging activity by comparing it to some empirical data. (Not sure what data yet though. 🙂 )
  • Gently point out what I think we should change in our current blogging activities. No reason to create animosity.

As you can see, that’s a lot to cram into a 45 minute talk. I think I’ll go for a sort of mash-up of things I’ve read in the book, found on the internet and my own experiences/opinions. Perhaps a high speed quote shoot-out with pretty pictures. The most important thing is to interest people in the first place. When they are interested I am hoping they will start asking questions.

There is one thing I still am a bit stifled about: What are good graphic representations of blogging? Anybody got ideas about that?

Naked presentations

On to something positive.

Last week I talked about doing an in company presentation about a book I read. Well I’ve mailed around a bit with some people that are responsible for the blogs of my employer. (Mine is not one of them though.) I got some positive feedback and some guidelines, so yeah I’m going to do it. Now to do some research on the book again.

Naked Conversations : How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers I’m not someone who does simple copy pasting, sure I’ll re-use some tips and anecdotes. But I’ll be sure to make it my story with credit where credit is due. The hard part will be to scrape together the best bits in the book and make a concise story of it that’ll fit inside 45 minutes. Also because it is not a really standard subject for an in company presentation I plan to experiment a bit with some tips taken from Presentation Zen.

Because the subject material is available all in the open and there is nothing secret about it’s contents I’ll look into publishing the results here. So stay tuned…

My build just finished, so I have to get back to work again…

Goofing around with Google

Just cruising the internet a bit while watching some soccer (TOG vs FRA). Not much up here. Busy setting up a brand new truly awesome blog somewhere else. 😉

I came accross this little piece of work. I have lifehacker in my news reader, because every so often something funny/sweet/really handy comes along.

Lifehacker informs us of a book available for free. Free as in free beer. Take a peek at http://www.55fun.com/ for the PDF version. You can just download it. And it’s not truly amazing, but it’s very welcome as a substitute to a very dull soccer match.

I know this is not my regular kind of blog entry, but hey. It’s weekend. 😛

Updated 29-June: You are looking at my new blog hosted at http://blog.leenarts.net

Naked Conversations

Naked Conversations : How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers Not the most recent book, but I had this one lying around for a few months now and finaly I had some time last week to read it.

You blog?
You read this.

This book was recommended to me and it was definatly worth the read. Very insightfully written and full of examples on how the mechanisms of bloggin work according to Robert Scoble and Shel Israel.

Basicly it’s a crash course into company blogging. The reasons to do it are explained, the effects of blogging compared to traditional media and marketing. And the do’s and don’ts of corporate blogging.

I could elaborate on how much I liked this book, it comes down to the fact that this is one of the few books I’d absolutely recommend if you have anything to do with blogging.

For more details on the book, do a google search or check a site like Amazon.

I’m actually thinking of doing an in-company presentation based on this book. Just to evangalize blogging a bit. The do’s and don’ts are set forth in this books are true indeed.

The complete guide to Digital Type

The Complete Guide to Digital Type : Creative Use of Typography in the Digital Arts Well, I’ve picked up a new book this weekend.

The Complete Guide to Digital Type : Creative Use of Typography in the Digital Arts

Now what should a developer like me do with something like this? A book about typesetting, fonts, serifs, strokes, heights, em, en, ascenders descenders x-lines terminals, counters, stems, legs, ears, arms. loops, links, and then some more…

Ehm, well. This books just looks pretty. And by looking pretty it suckered me into buying it. Because for me as a technical person all this stuff is not really the most important subject. Or is it?

Anyway, this book is a really nice introduction to the intricacies of typesetting and font usage. After the introduction it goes on about how to properly use font effects and eventually how to create font effects. Lots of stuff for the PhotoShop and Illustrator people out there. Lots of pretty pictures too.

Although I wont use all the information in this book, it does provide me with a solid background on fonts and typesetting. So hopefully I wont make the mistake of choosing form over function when it comes to creating slideware. 😛

I think this book is a definate must read for people who want to use fonts and typesetting properly. It also helps with making sense of all the terms used when fonts are being discussed. And even if you just want to read this book casually, it is so nicely designed. It’s just a joy to open up this book and be surprised by the layout of the pages. Just thumbing through this book should provide you with neat ideas about new ways to typeset/layout your own documents.

Harvard University Press: The Success of Open Source

The Success of Open Source Woops, just finished another book.

Harvard University Press: The Success of Open Source

This was really a nice read. It provides a detailed account of open souce all the way from its roots to present day. The book is not technical, but for the interested developer it is a must read. First the author outlines his goals for the book, then the main course is served in the form of the historic account of open source. Then there is a chapter detailing research material based on existing and past open source projects, the motivations of the people behind the projects are disected. Also the driving forces behind open source communities are detailed in very interesting way.

And the book ends with the legal and social implications of open source. Which is not my cup of tea. 🙂 But overall, a very interesting read about open-source. Overall a recommended read if you ask me.

Webdesign is a pain…

Don't Make Me Think : A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (2nd Edition) Last week I finished reading the book Don’t Make Me Think (2nd Edition) and let me tell you. Sometimes it just plain hurts to see a user interface. 🙁 Web desktop…

I won’t go into details. But I’ve seen things, things you would very likely wish upon your worst enemy. (Since it isn’t lethal or anything.)

Now to apply the things in this book. I’ve allways felt like I was a bit more design sensitive then most colleagues on a project. Guess I now have a book to slap them with.

The book isn’t a reference, but it does give you a firm grasp of the mode of thinking you have to use when designing a UI. Most of all, there is no such thing as an average user. That was kind of an eye opener for me. Pick up this one, since it’s a very short read, so it won’t cost you that much effort. But it will make you better understand what users need/want.