Feb 07

What’s orange and blue and downloaded all over?

I have been delinquent in my posting habits but this time, this time, it is not attributable to one of my regular outbursts of silence. This time there is something happening. Something that is keeping me a) occupied, and b) quiet about it. Some of you know what it is. For the rest, I will only say:

Watch this space.

(OMG w00t.)

Dec 06

Green Threads

Yesterday I got a package from Dr. Dobb’s Journal with three copies of the January edition, confirming that not only was my latest article in print, but it was a front page feature, huzzah! The article itself can be found online here. My sister-in-law Barb said that it sounded “Drier than toast” so don’t say I didn’t warn you, but I do manage to mention my wife and marijuana grow ops in the first sentence, so really, you knew it had to go downhill from there.

The rest of this post will be dedicated to reprinting an email exchange I just had with a DDJ reader in the States, in anticipation of the fact that he might not be the only person to ask his particular question. Future respondents can thus be directed here, saving the tubes literal hojillions of electrons. [Editor’s note: Firefox 2’s sexy new spellcheck doesn’t like the word hojillions and recommends, instead, “gazillions.” I love you Firefox. Pat, pat.]

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Jul 06

Shibboleth Resumé

HeadshotResumés are funny things because the one thing they don’t tell you is the one thing you want to know. As an employer, what I suspect I really want is a way to separate wheat from chaff. I want a way to say “Yes, fine, you have all the necessary checkboxes in place, but are you one of the good ones?” Even if you allow yourself the confidence necessary to believe that you are indeed one of the good ones, a resume is a terrible medium since, stylistically, it tends to force people down the path of enumeration-sans-substance. What is needed is a shibboleth. Don’t tell me which certifications you have, tell me that you are part of the culture. Don’t tell me what programming languages you know, tell me that you can kick ass and take names. Everyone who isn’t a bozo (seriously, go read that if you’re ever hiring someone) should be trying to hire the brightest lights in the building, so show them how you roll, or find another job to apply for.

That is how I would like things to go down, but even very hip HR folk would have trouble with a shibboleth resumé, I’m guessing. If I were applying for a job tomorrow, it would probably be something involving usability, security, and overall technology development. The resumé I’d send to a shibboleth-friendly company might read like this (standard disclaimers about the fact that any decent resumé almost automatically sounds boastful and egocentric; my apologies): Continue reading →

Apr 06

Taskbar Navel Gazing

In Cryptonomicon, Waterhouse beats himself up at one point (I think most people will not remember this part, but it stuck with me for whatever reason) for not being capable enough to decode the waves. The movements of German troops must, so the argument goes, have some seismic influence on the patterns of the waves in the ocean which we ought therefore to be able to decode at the receiving end. Our poor finite brains though, being poor and finite as they are, simply can’t cope with all the interfering variables and hence that information is lost to us. This is an observation that can keep me up nights when I think too much about it, but most of the time I’m content with the watered down version, which is that sometimes a seemingly trivial piece of information can allow a person of suitable constitution to extract deep and elaborate detail.

What with my previous post being a relatively low-res look at how my life has changed at work, I thought another might be in order because what is a blog, really, if not an uninteresting pile of introspective garbage? Behold, my taskbar:
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Mar 06

On the delicate art of not sucking


For those who don’t know me, some introduction. I am an IBM usability specialist. I am also a bit of a computer security hobbyist. I am lots of other things besides, but for the purposes of this article, these two are the relevant bits. As a usability specialist, I work on WebSphere Integration Developer, possibly one of IBM’s most usable software products to date, certainly one of the biggest usability challenges since it involves taking Nth-generation IT concepts like services-oriented architecture and loosely-bound component based application design in a J2EE application environment, and making it accessible to business people without programming skills. As a security hobbyist, I have worked (informally and unpaid) with companies like Cisco and FedEx to fix security issues in their apps before some nastier person got ahold of them. I really don’t want this to sound like strutting because it isn’t, there are lots of people in each domain with much more impressive resumes. It’s just an attempt to establish bona fides so that the next thing I say won’t sound totally stupid.

Security and Usability are basically the exact same kind of problem, and you’re probably doing them wrong.
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