looking long in the facebook

March 30, 2007 under Facebook, tech startup

VentureBeat, like Tiger Beat but aimed at tech entrepreneurs and features fewer pictures of Justin Timberlake, has an interesting article about advice when launching a start-up tech company. It features input from Paul Buchheit (Google‘s GMail), Greg McAdoo (VC hotshot) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook). Buchheit and McAdoo make same excellent points. Zuckerberg? I’m not so sure.

A little over a month ago, Pat mentioned that I should look into Facebook. I did and I’m up to 39 friends. I’ve run into a bunch of people I haven’t talked to in many years. Facebook for me is one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-that things. Actually, I did sort of think of it after I first saw Classmates.com many years ago; I just did absolutely nothing about it. Classmates.com is gross and Facebook is smooth.

But then its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, says something like this in the VentureBeat article:

“I want to stress the importance of being young and technical,” he stated. If you want to found a successful company, you should only hire young people with technical expertise.

and it leaves me scratching my head. Zuckerberg is surely a sharp guy, so I’m fairly certain that he recognizes his statement as ageist and promoting discriminatory hiring practises. Now, I’m not an expert at launching a tech startup; I just work at one. Yet in my mere 30 years on this planet, which may be too many to land a job at Facebook, I’ve learned that experience counts just as much as youthful exuberance and talent. I constantly learn things everyday from people who have experience with something that I do not, whether said people are older than me or not. Battle scars are a valuable learning tool. I have a few myself, but I definitely listen to those who have more. For a technical area like the software business, life-long learning is de rigeur, so that knowledge can come from books, experience and handed-down experience. Within the past 8 months alone, I can’t tell you how much valuable experience in the business-side of things I’ve picked up from people in their 20’s and others in their 40’s. It’s the stuff that I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. If I was an investor, I’m not sure I would get the warm ‘n’ fuzzies from an entire company of people doing everything for the first time. I’ve been part of projects where tasks were new to everyone involved; it’s fun and exciting but some of that might be attributed to fear of the unknown. Mistakes happen and you learn from them, but those who have been in that situation before are probably better equipped to handle them, or at the very least, are able to highlight potential gotchas. I’m not saying that Zuckerberg’s preference of hiring only young people is wrong (I won’t debate the legal aspects), I just think it’s rather daring.

Next Mark goes on to say:

He said it’s important to hire mostly coders, even in the marketing department, so if they want to change something on the web site all they have to do is log into the back-end and change copy on the fly.

Ack! Now this statement scares me. Coders should do one thing really well, and that’s translate human ideas into code. Yet some coders can’t even do that! And some coders have other skills like project management, product management, architecture, or an ability to sell. Although I still bet that most younger coders really only excel at programming; I know that was the case for me. I’m just now learning the finer details of the other facets of the SDLC – the intangibles that aren’t often found in a Computer Science curriculum. So if a young coder out of university takes a job where their primary role is in marketing (far from programming), will they continue to be a good programmer? Will they keep their skills sharp and up-to-date with the development team so that when they do make a change to your flagship project, you’re not suddenly swarmed by new and regressive bugs or change the scope of the entire project? And what about the process for a change to production code? I hope there is a process for change management, otherwise the source control app must be getting quite the merge-tacular workout.

Then there’s the fact that Facebook has a boatload of personal information about a sizable amount of people in the world, but I’ll save that discussion for another time…

PS: I honestly do like Facebook. Seriously 🙂

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get joost

March 21, 2007 under IPTV, Joost

I’ve been informed that I have 2 invites to the Joost beta and they expire tomorrow. If any one who has a capable computer would like an invite, let me know. You can learn all about Joost, an IPTV app/system, from its F.A.Q.. In my experience, the client was pretty good and streaming was smooth on my connection. I’m not into most of the content that’s there right now, but some of it is decent. The beta is free, so what do you have to lose, right? Here are the minimum system requirements of the Joost client:

Windows

  • Pentium 4 processor, 1GHz
  • A modern video card with DirectX support and at least 32MB of VRAM
  • At least 512MB of RAM
  • 500MB of available disk space

Mac

  • Any Intel-based Mac
  • At least 512MB of RAM
  • 500MB of available disk space

Linux

  • You’re shit out of luck, and running it in a virtual machine would suck.

If your computer meets the requirements and you want an invite, let me know before tomorrow (March 22, 2007) prior to 2PM Eastern Daylight Time.

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strength in numbers (of thrift store clothes items)

March 17, 2007 under Arcade Fire, Indie Rock, Music

Let’s a take a break from all of the tech geek babble that I unleash upon the Web here. I want to speak about music – specifically Canadian indie rock – more specifically Arcade Fire‘s new album, Neon Bible – sickeningly more specifically the roads to indie rock success. Ha, specifically. 🙂

Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

Arcade Fire are one of this country’s most celebrated independent rock bands ever. Deservedly so, of course. Their debut EP was decent but their proper debut album, Funeral, was spectacular. I listened to it constantly, each time uncovering something I hadn’t heard before. It was dark but usually offered hope at the same time. Which is why I’m not sold on Neon Bible, which probably puts me in the minority. Personally, I find it makes Trent Reznor seem more chipper than Mr. Rogers. Neon Bible is chock full of doom ‘n’ gloom shrouded in a multitude of instruments. I’m normally fond of wall-of-sound songs (see 90’s shoegazing) but Neon Bible has plenty of clashing sounds – like a constant barrage of those “sudden noises” of Yes‘ “Owner of a Lonely Heart” – all rolled into each song. So far, the only tracks that I like are “Keep the Car Running” and “No Cars Go” (which sounds better now than on the debut EP). Maybe the rest of album is just taking really long to grow on me.

In spite of my lack of interest in Neon Bible, it still is on its way to becoming a success. It placed itself at #2 on the Billboard album charts last week. An independent record from a Montreal band made it to number 2 on Billboard! That’s crazy. Profit margins aside, this shows that the Canadian independent music scene is truly world class. Arcade Fire, who now have 9 band members in their ranks, join the likes of Broken Social Scene and the New Pornographers. Actually, Arcade Fire are slowly reaching the size of BSS; Arcade Fire have 9 and Broken Social Scene have like 18….hundred (give or take a few). Which begs the question, does having more members equal indie rock success? Of the 3 big Canadian indie bands who have found global success (Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene and New Pornographers), I’m a bigger fan of the Pornos than the other two. But at only 6 members, the New Pornographers are going to have to draft a few more members to keep pace with the trend.

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i hate the dst

March 10, 2007 under daylight savings time

Well, I shouldn’t say that I despise Daylight Savings Time – not at this point in my life anyway. When I was young, I hated being forced to go to bed while it was still light out. Maybe that’s why I prefer the winter months now? Child psychology aside, what I really don’t like is the hysteria surrounding the new DST period. Those of us in most places in North America used to set our clocks ahead one hour at 2AM on the first Sunday in April, and set them back one hour at 2AM on the last Sunday in October. Due to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, we now set our clocks ahead one hour on the second Sunday in March, and set them back one hour on the first Sunday in November.

Being the geekboy that I am, I should mention that plenty of software and hardware vendors have offered DST patches to correct the clocks and time functions of products that automatically adjust for DST or perform date calculations. These patches are often more of a convenience than anything else. Because I patched up my Windows computers, I know that when I wake up tomorrow morning, their clocks will have adjusted accordingly. Yay? Sure, yay. Yet I’ve recently spoken with some enterprise software vendors who are spreading FUD like mad cheddar. I’ve been told that their enterprise applications will cease to work, lest money be spent to purchase their current version. Honestly, what sort of application is that concerned with timezones (I’m omitting the kinds of apps like the ones that keep planes in the air)? At an operating system level, time is kept in Coordinated Universal Time. Local time is merely an offset to keep people happy, and with good reason. Here in the eastern time zone, we’re always 5 hours behind UTC in the winter and 4 hours behind in the summer – that’s local time. If we’re talking enterprise apps, I would think that anything that logs date/time stamps would do so in UTC, and when date/time is to be displayed to a user, then use local time. In the .NET world, it’s as easy as:

// UTC time
System.DateTime dtUTC   = DateTime.UtcNow;

// Local time
System.DateTime dtLocal = DateTime.Now;

There’s no need to roll your own time zone offset. I’m assuming that in the Java world, J2EE has something similar (correct me if I’m wrong). Then again, if all vendors where honest with customers, that wouldn’t sell as many licenses/units.

Also, because we’ll have more daylight, the logic is that we’ll rely on less electricity to light our homes during the summer. With CFL and LED light bulbs, I’d bet that keeping a house lit with those would be require far less electricity than what’s required when air conditioners are running. Just a thought…

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a retching good time

March 7, 2007 under Life

Here’s another excuse for a lack of posting – a GI bug that left my innards on the outside. That was a gross description wasn’t it? 😉

I’m feeling better (thanks for asking) and once I clear up a few side gigs, I’ll return with more wonderful insights about the technical world and how it impacts our lives. Perhaps I’ll even unleash an album review or two. Until then, I’ll be firing up the MySQL Query Browser while sipping the champagne of gingerales. Stay tuned.

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