Month: September 2009

Like Herding Cats

You know when you have a set of disparate, yet related, ideas and plans and whilst you know they WILL all tie together it can sometimes be a struggle to both see how that will happen and communicate it to your various stakeholders? Well that’s where my head has been the past couple of weeks. No wonder I’ve been tired and headachey, my brain hurts!

Basically I’m trying to pull together a plan for the next 6-12 months that wraps up the ongoing development of the single source solution my team have in place (we are using Author-it), with the production of a knowledge centre (containing all of the product documentation, releases notes and more), which will be hosted on the developer community website I have setup, making sure we can provide partner friendly information all the while ensuring that we are covering all the levels of content required.

That, plus a few other side projects.

I have a mindmap of all this, and whilst I’m not fond of them it is allowing me to make sure I’m covering all the required areas.

The good thing is that it is all starting to come together so all I’m really doing is tweaking the timescales and goals a little to make sure they all align. The downside is that it’s generating even more work for me and my team which, as it happens, is actually a good thing.

On blog comments

I always get excited when I see an email in my inbox with a subject line that starts “WordPress:…” as it means someone has commented on one of my blogs. Such a simple delight I know but hey, you take pleasure in the little things I guess.

Sometimes that delight is instantly crushed when I realise it’s a spambot that is trying to add a comment containing a link to either some ‘enhancing’ pharamceutical, a flirty comment from a hot chick, or just complete nonsense accompanied by a phishing URL.

However there seems to be a rise in the number of “real” spam comments these days, and that is hugely disheartening. These comments are left by, it seems, real people who have taken a fraction of a second to search, for example, for “Olympics” found my blog post from a couple of years back and added in a perfectly unoffensive comment, with a link to their specialist Olympic Boxing in 2012 website.

And in a weird way that, to me, is worse than any automated spambot. The fact that there is (again, it certainly seems that there is) a real person that has left the comment makes the whole thing feel tainted and dirty.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hugely precious about this blog but really, this new development in comment spam is just ugly. But then it’s always the few that spoil it for the many.

Chapter 4

‘Why not’, he thinks as he circles the advert in bold red ink, ‘I’ve tried everything else’.

Wanted: People who can find lost things.

He’d always been pretty good at figuring things out, liked reading detective novels when he was younger, and he never failed to find his Christmas presents no matter how ingeniously his parents hid them. Yeah, this might finally be the job for him. God knows he’d tried just about everything else, and had the scars to prove it.

With nothing else catching his eye, he scoffs down the last bite of his pastry, washes it down with the last of his coffee and hustles over to the payphone in the corner.

“Yes?” a brusque voice answers.

“Ohh hi, I’m.. eh.. phoning about the job advert in the paper today?”

“Which one?”

“Well it just says ‘Wanted: People who can find lost things’ so, I guess, that one?”

“Ahhhh yes, of course,” the voice softens “yes yes, when can you come speak with us? Are you free this afternoon? It would be great if you were as we are very keen to get people started, especially smart and on-the-ball individuals like yourself.”

“Ohhh right, well I’m free all day so, yeah, I can meet with you this afternoon if you like.”

“That’s wonderful, yes yes, tell me, do you know the cafe on Mitchell Street, just up from the laundrette on the corner of 4th?”

“Well sure Mister, I’m standing in it right now.”

“You are! Ohh how delightful! Yes yes yes, I wonder, yes, perhaps I could pop over now and have a chat with you? Would that be acceptable? I realise it’s very short notice but time is always of the essence, isn’t it Mr. … Mr…??”

“Finch, Alan Finch.”

“Excellent, Mr. Finch, so if I could trouble you to order me a coffee, black, no sugar, I’ll be over presently to have a little chat. Yes yes this could work out quite well I think”

“Sure thing, you want anything else with that?”

His question echoes down the line and the dial tone confirms the reply.

He hangs up and as he walks back to his seat he realises that he doesn’t know who he is meeting, or what he looks like. He turns to eye the street outside, looking for… well he doesn’t know who but he looks anyway.

The waitress idles over and he turns and orders two black coffees. As she leaves she glances down at the paper, the advert circled prominently and as the hint of a smile starts creeping across her face, turns to fetch his coffee.

He is still staring out of the window when a voice interrupts him.

‘Mr. Finch, Mr. Alan Finch?’

Startled he turns, his elbow catches his empty coffee mug and sends it hurtling towards the floor. The man standing there deftly reaches out and plucks it from the air, then places it firmly down on table.

‘Wow, Mister, good catch!’ he says, only now looking up and into the face of who he presumes is the man he spoke to on the phone mere moments ago.

‘Yes yes, I suppose it was, just a reaction thing I guess, always been quite good at that kind of thing. Do you mind if I sit down?’

As he sits he draws a business card from his pocket, holding it out with long powerful looking fingers, ‘My name is Bachman, Richard Bachman, thank you so very much for meeting me at such short notice’.

The business card has the same name on it, with the same phone number listed for the advert. Nothing else.

He takes the business card, flips it over and back again, looking for some sort of clue of what this might be about. He is just about to ask that very question when the waitress arrives, steam billowing from white china mugs. She plonks them down on the table, and in a flat drawl tells them to enjoy their beverages.

Alan looks up at her as she turns to walk away and he’s sure she winks at the man sitting opposite. Alan turns his attention to the strange man sitting there, taking in the thin yet powerful looking body, and the weary looking face offset by the most piercing grey eyes he’d ever seen.

‘So young man, I’m guessing you are wondering what the advert is all about? Yes yes I can see it in your eyes already, itching for knowledge, for answers. Well don’t worry I will tell you everything in good time, but first a question for you, do you mind if I ask you a question Alan?’

‘Of course not, fire away’.

‘Alan, and I need to you be very very honest, if you lie I will know and that will be the end of the interview. OK, you do understand that, don’t you Alan? I do not like time wasters and have seen enough to know when that is the case, do not lie to me’.

‘I won’t, look I need a job, you are advertising for… well, something, I don’t know what, but I need the work so I’ve no reason to lie, do I?’

‘Excellent! You are quite right, yes yes of course you have no reason to lie, yet people do for a myriad of reasons, right and wrong. But yes, you are candid and honest, good qualities, ones I like and that have taken you a step closer to being successfully chosen for this position. Yes yes I feel this is going very well already, now that question, it may sound odd, it may sound … what is the word now, oh yes, macabre, yes a delicious word but not one you’d hear at many a job interview, is that right? Yes of course it is, so, yes, that question, are you ready for the question Alan? Ready to answer truthfully?’

In his mind he was already beginning to regret making that phone call, and that the man sitting opposite him might not be completely sane… but what other options did he have? None, he knew it and he sensed this odd man sitting across from him knew it too. He had no other choices, no cards left to play.

‘Yes, I’m ready to answer truthfully’.

With that the man leans forward, his face hardens and his eyes seem to glow. In a low clear voice he asks the question. The question that will change everything.

‘Alan, have you ever looked into a dying man’s eyes?’

Observed

Despite having had a small fortune spent on it recently, the car needed to go back into the garage this morning. I decided that I’d drop the car off, walk to the barber and get my haircut then walk home. Rain permitting.

Which it did.

All in it’s a couple of miles, mostly uphill and as the day wasn’t too warm, nor too cold, and the clouds were slowly dispersing I thought, why the hell not.

I’ve always liked walking, more so in cities where there is so much to observe, but even a wander through a suburban town like Hamilton has moments that make it worthwhile, be they sad, happy, odd or even mundane.

A middle aged woman sitting on dining chair at her front door, still in her dressing gown, cigarette in one hand, a handkerchief in the other. She didn’t even look up as I passed, her blank gaze focussed on the ground in front of her. Smoke drifted untouched out of the door and spiralled up to the heavens.

A young baby in a pushchair, kicking his legs and giggling in that infectious way that only babies can. His Mum laughing along unashamedly, who looked up at me as I passed and happily acknowledged the smile that I couldn’t help but form, a hint of joy shared.

An old man and his companion, both hobbling along at their own pace. No hurry or rush, just another day to be gotten through. The newspaper under his arm suggests it’s all part of the routine, the old dog following him is stiff and sore but faithfully following. No lead required, he knows the way.