Month: September 2007

Mixed Fruit

I do feel a little guilty doing this kind of post for the second time in as many days but.. well.. see the previous post as to why.

So let’s start with, and you knew it would be this way, the recent Apple ‘event’ (product launch). If that doesn’t interest you, skip the next paragraph and read on from there, can you help me get out of my contract with Orange!

Is the “iPod Touch” a fallback position because they couldn’t garner contracts with the mobile telecoms in Europe? Why DID they add Video to the Nano, it was perfectly suited as a music only player and if they are keeping the Shuffle as a highly focussed product, why are the others all starting to converge? Why WILL it take Starbucks until 2009 to roll out their partnership stuff and, frankly, do I even care?

Apples and Oranges, purely coincidence I promise.

I have a contract with Orange which lasts another 8 months or so (it’s an 18mth contract). However, I’m less than happy with their services, coverage at our house is appalling, and the handset whilst not broken is full of annoying faults which force me to hang up on calls now and then (the sliding mechanism doesn’t always seem to lock in).

I’ve spoken to them about the handset but, and I think I’ve got this correct, if the fault isn’t listed on their system then they can’t offer replacement handset. I argued that one for a while but eventually gave up, as even the ‘supervisor’ (presuming it was actually said person) confirmed that the ‘system’ wouldn’t allow such things. Handy that, eh?

That, coupled with various other interactions with their customer service department, has me cringing every time something goes wrong with my account or my mobile phone. So I wanna ditch them before the end of my contract? Any suggestions? Saying that I’m going to working abroad for the next year is an option perhaps??

So it’s R.I.P. for Pavarotti. I’m not a fan of opera, but he seemed a nice big chap, didn’t he. Couldn’t half warble. Admittedly I’m less than thrilled that the airwaves will be filled with Nessun Dorma for the next day or so as I’m sure that he had better highlights but, well you’ve got to pander to the proles don’t you. I’m sure Gert will be expressing her sadness.

And finally, bananas. I used to work with a woman who found them wholly disturbing things, couldn’t even look at one. Isn’t that odd?

Task Oriented Writing

Switching from a very prescriptive style to a task oriented style is a mind shift for most writers, and whilst it’s one thing to understand the theory of something, making it part of your natural working practise is another.

Having read a few articles, and done some research into what task oriented writing is, I think I understand the basics, and have started to apply some of the principles to some of the stuff I’m currently working on. However I do find myself breaking out into the old functionality focussed method and I really need a way, a trick or hack or whatever, to keep myself think “task task task”.

Also interested to hear from anyone who has managed a team through such a transition. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, I’d really appreciate them.

On being busy

A returning theme but one which I always feel compelled to explore.

Hey, who said “avoidance tactic”! Shutup.

I am, at present, in the midst of three new designs, all for different people. One has a wireframe complete but is awaiting graphics from which I’ll key the colors and style, one is purely a CSS rework which is always an interesting challenge, and the third I’m not entirely sure about but want to get a mockup or two done asap so I can get on and discover any limitations that exist in the proposed platform.

I’m trying to pull together a post, or article, that pulls together minimalism in documentation, single sourcing and extreme programming methodologies as there are areas of overlap there, I just can’t get them to stick right now.

I’m in the midst of researching task-oriented documentation, which sort of fits with the aforementioned article but not quite. I think. Maybe.

I’ve got a post on, the implications of, RSS feeds waiting in the wings but can’t quite get it finished.

I’ve restarted my efforts to rip all my CDs to MP3 so I can box them up and put them in the loft, which will allow us to shuffle the living room a little.

The newly painted hallway at home still needs some touching up but we’ve made some progress there, sanding down the bannister is the last big job I think.

That’s all before you consider fixing things here (those funny question marks in the comments, MyBlogLog was ‘supplying’ them, so that’s nixed that script…) and, you know, the day job and all that.

It’s almost just as well that my knee is still sore so I still can’t go running. I think a trip to the docs might be on the cards as the pain is now only evident when I kneel, and feels like it’s under the kneecap, rather than the ligaments. Joy.

Anyway, I know fine well that I’m only this busy because I want to be, or rather because it is around this time that I re-learn the need to say “no”. I’m not complaining, far from it, but the danger is I spread myself too thin and nothing gets done properly.

With that in mind, excuse me, I’ve got stuff to do… put a fresh pot of coffee on for starters.

Wikis, and the shifting of power

Prompted by two recent articles discussing the use of a Wiki, firstly this one by Joann Hackos, and this excellent followup by Ann Gentle, I realised that my current place of employment is an excellent example of how well a Wiki can work internally, and how we are considering building on that success by creating an externally available source.

I can take no credit in the fact that the development team I currently work within has, and actively uses, a Wiki. I joined the company in January this year, and was delighted to find such a resource not only available, but being actively populated.

As an internal resource, the technical advantages of using a Wiki to capture technical information are fairly obvious. The ease of use, and open nature of a Wiki suit the task very well and I think it’s fairly safe to say that a lot of developers enjoy the lack of structure and formality as well. However, it’s one thing to have a Wiki, quite another to make it a central resource that is used without much, or any, prompting.

The key is to make the Wiki THE central resource for team specific information. With that in mind, most of our meeting minutes are posted there, as are seating plans, high-level feature plans and so on. Detail is kept to a minimum, and as they are using the Wiki to track their own work, it’s a simple next step for them to start populating it with any useful nuggets of information.

As for using a Wiki externally, I think Joann has the right idea. If you have a complex product, that can be used in many different ways and scenarios then, quite simply, you aren’t going to be able to document them all. It’s also likely that your users are going to have their own ideas and thoughts and, in some cases, your users may take matters into their own hands and start populating some form of resource of their own.

Wikis, forums and so on, considered the hubs of the social web, have shifted the power of information from the traditional model. Information is now considered free, and regardless of your view on whether or not that is true, the social web and, more importantly, the people involved within it, will pursue whatever they need to meet their needs. So, if you aren’t meeting them, and there may be valid reasons as to why that is so, as I mentioned previously, then perhaps part of our role in the equation is to become the faciliator in that area.

Of course, building an online community, regardless of how it is maintained, is no easy task. The beauty of a Wiki is that it is largely self-administrating, and you can rest assured that your users will automatically be predisposed to making it as useful as possible.

Creating and providing a Wiki to external users has an element of risk, and the biggest challenge may be convincing all the areas within your organisation that need to buy-in to the idea.

Do you use Wikis, internally or externally? Do you have a company blog? An online forum? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Additional info: How to hold meetings on a Wiki

Covers

I remain unashamed by my musical tastes but there is a quirk in there which has recently surfaced. Regardless of the genre into which they are dragged, I do have a love of cover versions. At the moment Mark Ronson’s album, Version, seems to float to the top of my playlist. The reworking on Toxic, originally by Britney Spears, a favourite, closely followed by a version of one of my favourite Radiohead tracks, Just.

Previously, cover versions were the remit of live acts and the occasional B-Side. However, in the past few years, and this may just be because I’m starting to notice them, there have been a spate of entire albums of cover versions. Particularly of note are the Nouvelle Vague albums, taking punk tracks and reworking them into lounge acts with a little sprinkling of je ne sais quois, and the Johnny Cash American Recordings albums.

But what is the appeal?

For me it’s similar to hearing a track played live, hearing, sometimes for the first time, a distinct nuance or the use of a specific instrument. Such things are sometimes only revealed during a live gig, with the sound mix adjusted and the volume playing a significant part, or perhaps the arrangement is different, there are a variety of reasons I guess.

Anyway, I’ve started compiling a list of my favourite cover versions:

  • I Will Survive – Cake (original by Gloria Gaynor)
  • Feeling Good – Muse (original by Nina Simone)
  • Wind Cries Mary – Jamie Cullum (original by Jimi Hendrix)
  • Heart beats – Jose Gonzalez (original by The Knife)
  • Just can’t get enough – Nouvelle Vague (original by Depeche Mode)
  • Just – Mark Ronson (original by Radiohead)
  • You were always on my mind – Pet Shop Boys (original by Elvis)
  • Personal Jesus – Johnny Cash (original by Depeche Mode)

Of course, I’m not the only person to come up with a list of best cover versions, but I’m sure you all have some suggestions.

So, have at it, the comments are open, what’s your favourite cover version?

Random thoughts from the weekend

Dear God, the Jewel of the Nile is an awful movie.

Managed to avoid just about every mention of Diana. It really sucks sharing an anniversary with that event. Still, it does mean I never forget it. Not that I would, of course… MY anniversary I mean…

Billie Piper, her wot was in Doctor Who, is set to play Belle de Jour on TV. Yes, THAT Belle de Jour. How come she hasn’t been outed yet? Is there some level of acceptance of her ‘exploits’ because she is a prostitute? Does the ‘profession’ mean it’s sort of OK, but if you are a natural woman who enjoys sex, that’s bad and evil? Double standards anyone?

Big Brother is finished. Thank feck. A fan from previous years, this year grated on me more than normal.

I may need to start saving for another Mac. Everytime I go to use it SOMEONE is using it.

There is something satisfying about washing a car, something almost sensual and erotic. Soapy sponge, running over the sleek curves. Most odd. Am I a pervert?

I have never seen all of the movie BeetleJuice so I don’t understand why it’s not called Betelgeuse…

Hang on, can I install OSX on my Dell box? Dual boot maybe?

Is Twitter killing blogging? 😉