What I Miss About Being Paid Salary

When I worked salary, one of things I liked, but didn’t realize at the time, was the ability to solve a problem no matter how long it took.  Granted, when it got out of control, my manager and team would find ways to bring it under control, but bottom line I’d be pointed at a challenge, let go, and I’d update my superiors on my progress.

I have a high willpower; it’s the only way I’ve been able to compete in this industry.  It serves me well in solving challenging problems because the obvious is not always obvious, and you are constantly challenging your assumptions, testing hypothesis, and following stringent logical workflows… or not, depends on my mood.  Typically, you are supposed to rule out the most obvious & likely problems first in any debug session.  For example, some example code you try doesn’t work.  More than likely, it is faulty documentation vs. the actual Flash Player not working… unless you are using an alpha build of the Flash Player.

Those 2 paths of debugging above can lead to further steps, and other test cases that can drag on your morning.  Other problems can drag on for days, even weeks.  A lot of times, you can only spend small chunks of random time throughout the day, never really being able to focus exclusively on the bug.  Sometimes it has a lower priority, and you merely put it in the back of your daily queue, in hopes that other development will spark a reason for why it is happening.

All those things and more can either be full force, or backburner type tasks.  Bottom line, you are paid whether you fix it or not, and the time isn’t really a big deal vs. the resolution.  Depending on scope, the point of no return is measured in days or weeks, not hours.

Getting paid hourly, however, changes the rules.  I cannot go off for days at a time trying to solve a problem.  I need to document what I am doing, minute by minute, always needing to be aware of what I am doing, how long it is taking me, and how long it’ll take to get to a resolution.

Those of you who have been in software development for any length of time know that if you knew how long it was going to take you to solve the problem, then you’d know what the problem was.  Debugging, however, is about finding the problem.  You can’t solve a problem until you’ve found it, and if it were that simple, then application development wouldn’t always be over budget.

The solution is to keep an accurate assessment of progress, well spoken hypothesis on what the problem(s) could be, and put it in the client’s lap to decide on if you should keep going, or focus on other tasks.  Before, it was, "Jesse, solve this issue, and report back to me when you’ve found it.  If you don’t find it by lunch, let me know.  We’ll discuss and see if we can’t try a few more ideas."

Now, it’s kind of like that, but with a lot more documentation, self-awareness, and less emotional investment.  I guess that last part is what really irks me. I can no longer dive in head first.  As a contractor, I’m now constantly nagged by my own psyche to remember to keep track of my time of how long I’ve spent, and being able to clearly articulate where I am at with the bug at the drop of a hat.

PodCasting is Hard

PodCasting is hard… not the recording part, however. I’ve been recording myself on cassette tapes since I was 4, long enough to forget how to spell cassette and being forced to utilize my Firefox Dictionary.com shortcut as brain backup. I’ve been messing with homeade & mouth-made foley my entire life, and put those Larvell Jones wannabe skills to work during college for all kinds of sound effects. I’ve mixed loops into music for a TV commercial professionally. I know how to record audio on the computer.

No, what I’m talking about is publishing your podcast; allowing the world to hear your mp3 in whatever it is they use to play mp3s. This stuff should take 1 click, Jeff Bezos’ coke-binge-patent be damned.

Say you decide to forego bungie jumping with a fist-sized fishhook in your mouth with the slack wrapped around ye wrist and attempt instead at getting your PodCast into iTunes. Aye, now there is a valiant endeavor worthy of any geek worth his salt. :: loads gun ::

First, you’re existing blog software won’t work. LiveJournal? Nope. Blogger? Nadda. MoveableType? Perl ate your baby. Acknowledging that PodCasting is newer than new, as if you knew, you must proceed to force the technology that has already proven itself a fantastic voice for the masses, allowing them to spread and share ideas together in an online community (blogs if the sarcasm went so far over your head to crash into the mars rover… sorry rover-dude!) … must now be tweaked to go in a different direction merely for the sake of a fileformat. In this case MP3 because changing iTunes preferences JUST to republish to AAC is a time consuming process. Besides, I like Germans. …and please don’t tell me Germans had a hand in creating AAC too, the road was long and hard enough just getting here. The last thing I need at this juncture is a fork in the road. :: pops in clip ::

There happens to be a blog hack website which even offers a copyrighted name, SmartCast. It’s called FeedBurner, and the common theme it shares with the rest of Web 2.0 sites is the utter lack of, “Here’s what the f*** I do and why you should give a s***.” To hades with the pleasantries! This is the social networking revolution, and all of those sites know that 90% of their users are going there because their tech-friends already told them about it, thus negating the basic need for explainging exactly what your site does and why I should care. Yes, we’ve transcended to an internet plane which Jakob Neilsen was the avatar for. Hallowed are Ori! :: pulls back slide ::

Funny thing about MoveableType, is that every version is a surprise. Like Cracker Jack. Only the prize is free blogging software EVERYTIME with slightly different, unexpected functionality and instead of being packaged with a jolly, ghost-pale blue-clothed sailor it’s the vice Uncle Fester had as a kid, all yellow with a 3 letter name, “ZIP”. While her majesty went on a windowed safari in Safari (What are these “tabs” you speak of?) through the wild world of PodCasting tutorials that assume you juiced up on THC & JD, with such mantra’s as:

“Repeat after me… you have the capability… not to drool… in public.”

“Wow man… cool… I can do that… you know, man… I can do that!”

…I was off to solve it a programmers way; via a plug-in! Past experience has defiled the metaphor, somehow metamorphosed “helpful add-on tool” into “monkey wrench”, but, leave it to parse-mesiter-Perl to parse a cute, harmless little monkey into a :: 10 octaves lower :: MONKEY WRENCH OF DOOM!!! MUAHAHAH!!!!!!!

Apparently the Enclosures plugin was DOA. No logging of errors, and my RSS 2 file hadn’t even heard of any, “En-clow sur” before. First time for everything… but not today. *click* *click* *train sound* file deleted. :: slide locks into place, bullet enters chamber ::

So, I dressed up like Eminem, donned my num-chucks, and head to the forum jungle. Quite strange things in the world of forums… such as forums. They’re weird. People use them. They physically go places to utilize smilies and block tags vs. having content pushed to them. Perhaps the effort makes it more worthwhile? The common consensus was, “Use Blogger, Use FeedBurner, Use iTunes”. So, Blogger bloggy weblog setup. Feeling a little randy, so setup an account for FeedBurner too. Still not sure what it does, but it’s just a gateway drug, and I’m here for the adrenochrome. Frustrated by my progress, I scoured the cabinents and found some Blue Agave distilled into a urine colored substance, that tasted even worse. The pain was strong, but Utilarianism shall prevail… with a little help from my hombres.

Blogger post? Check. FeedBurner SmartCast? Check.

…iTunes fails to see “episodes”.

Try MoveableType entry, and register it into FeedBurner.

…iTunes fails to see “episodes”.

Download 4 meg MP3 from Dreamhost to my comp, disinfect Dreamhost’s suck, polish, and re-upload to my Atlanta server running on Windows with 10 billion MIME types.

…iTunes fails to see “episodes”. JesterXL attacks iTunes, rolls a 4. Misses. :: raises gun to head ::

Re-save MoveableType & Blogger entries. Her majesty forum posts. Motivational Speaker’s son answers, gives recommendations + side suggestion, non-chalant not so important as to appear trivial, yet important enough to give 2 line breaks before it’s inception into post.

Remove spaces from file name.

…iTunes gets 500 error from MoveableType feed.
…iTunes successfully reads Blogger feed.

By this time, I’m completely inebriated by some 14 year-old squeezed cactus liquid and start giving lewd, suggestive looks at my larger-than-lifesize Halo 2 cut out. It must of been the dual-weilding bullet hoses, but I just started to pass out… later to find out I tripped on one of my sleeping dogs and banged my head on my desk. You should still adopt a Cactuar, though.

Anyway, at my wits end, and out of pimp juice, I get bored and change the MoveableType feed URL from rss to atom, just like the Blogger one, in FeedBurner.

…iTunes successfully reads MoveableType feed. Dreamhost attacks iTunes. Rolls 18. Hits. Dreamhost’s sub-domain falls off, and writhes violently upon the dungeon floor. :: puts pressure on trigger ::

*ding* *dong*

Email? It’s only been 1 minute since my last 4 spam messages… apparently Apple has accepted the PodCast into iTunes, and is going to approve it. So, you can get into the club, but the bouncers will gang bang you at the coat check. “Whoa… a mink! Soft…”

There have been 2 reasons blogs were successful. Easy to publish, and easy to read via aggregators. PodCasting needs to be made easier to publish. I’m not the smartest geek on the block, but f’me, that’s just ridiculous. I fail to see why the tech world has to plummet into chaos when someone chooses to publish their words as digital waves vs. digital text. Considering the rate of change, hopefully I’ll only have to wait a year. Just in case, I’m going to get more Blue Agave… and adopting a Cactuar. I hope when I actually decide to try my own hand at a PodCast vs. helping a friend, it is easier to do so.
:: unloads and disassembles glock ::
:: no disassemble number 5 ::

JXL on “Teh Patch”

Neurofuzzy had a good write up about his experience with the IE Eolas patch Microsoft is distributing, so I figured I’d write up on mine too. I also had wrote up about 4 paragraphs in the past hour whining about how I hate it, but suffice it to say, all of my existing Flash & Flex content, while playable, requires an extra click to “get it to work”. The banner at the top of my site, my comments app to this blog post, and even my little “Copy to Clipboard” trackback link movie at the end of this post all no longer work like they should in IE. They display just fine, you can see them, but when you go to click in a field to write something or click a button in IE… you have to click twice.

That’s sad… for me because all of my Flex & Flash content is now broken user experience wise, and for users who have to deal with all of the sites NOT fixed by using the JavaScript workarounds such as Microsoft’s solutions, FlashObject, or Adobe’s hotfix for Flex 1.5. Do you think Eolas would pay the invoices I send to them for having to add code to my personal & professional projects? I think out of spite I’ll bill them for my time.

I applaud Microsoft for battling this patent, for implementing this change vs. the former one, and for using this as a line in the sand early. Eolas, however, has left a scar on the Internet, and the ingenuity of programmers has managed to dramatically reduce the casulaties. Go JavaScript.

Still, I’m sad. I use Firefox, but most of my clients don’t, nor do millions of users. As the script implementations increase, so to will the damage’s visbility disappear so there is a silver lining. History will hopefully view this as the US patent system gone horribly wrong with implications to have gone even worse and learn from it.

Pay For Anonymity

I just got an email from Register.com. I can pay them $9 bucks so my address and phone number isn’t easily accessible via WHOIS information even though ICANN decrees it so. There are a plethora of other places to find this information about me, even some have an actual accurate address, and those places provide this information freely. I’d bet most do not offer a hider’s fee like Register.com does.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how people’s data is on other people’s computers, not under their direct control, and that data is under different laws in regards to getting a warrant from authorities to access it. Granted, just about everything is up for grabs, but there is still some legislation to help it not get too out of hand. Not sure what the legislation is, I just “feel” like it’s there. Self delusion? Probably.

Someone wrote a blog entry last week on MXNA about how some such business was offering a service to parents to find out about what their children do online. They’d basically trawl blogs and MySpace, collect forum postings and other archived email list information, organize it, and send to parents.

The blogger countered with the idea that maybe someone would someday start offering services to hide your personal information from your parents. It’s feasible you could hire someone to lower the visibility of a lot of your online information, but never remove it. While there are millions yearning & yelling to be be heard, even you’re quiet musings can be found if you dig through the cacophony. I’m sure, though, much like security through obscurity, you could at least deter those not so determined.

Still, everything is saved somewhere, why try? I think I’ve tried for the most part to live by the mantra my dad taught me:

“You’re never sorry for something you didn’t say.”

I’ve only deleted 1 blog entry in my 6 years of blogging because I later would of preferred I had not said it. I didn’t regret it because I learned a valuable lesson, but I know it’s out there cached in a multitude of places.

Holding politicians and others in the public eye accountable for what they say has gotten easier with the advent & ubiquity of digital video & editing equipment. You can play back word for word what they said, in or out of context, and body check them on it. The same can be done using internet caching in blog comments (see comment #14).

Everything you do or say online is captured somewhere. I wonder at what point some of those places will start charging to erase data about you, and only you? This doesn’t mean the data itself is actually deleted, only access to the parts about you.

For example, if someone came to me, and told me they’d pay me $5 to remove all of their comments from my blog, I’d probably do so. However, it is conceivable I could delete those comments from being public, rebuild all of my blog entries that had that comment, and thus have no publicly facing pages that house that person’s comment. The comment would still exist where the rest of my blog data does, though, in my MySQL database. Do I charge extra? Do they have a right to have their data (their name & email address) removed from my database they freely and knowing gave it too?

If I go into a clothing store at the mall, can I pay the clothing store the next day to delete all security camera footage of me because I “had a bad hair day”? Assuming no crimes were committed that day, and they had no legal reasons to retain past footage, could they make money via charging me for such a service?

Would such services proliferate if many others started following the same model? Could I pay Target to remove video footage, Flickr to remove all of my photos and links, and Chattyfig to remove all archived emails? Am I truly paying for the illusion of anonymity? Once visible, can you ever truly disappear again? Will name identity changes become more prevalent in the future?

Online identities have been big business lately. Some have persona’s in forums and online games, some have ego’s based around them via XBox 360 badges, and some actually have totally different perceptions from the world at large online vs. off. What defines you and what you use to express yourself via your identity online defines internet & connectivity culture, and has ties to the presence sphere in the corporate world as well as Bluetooth devices.

If search engines are the bloodhounds to your digital scent, then multiple online identities are the solution to online anonymity. This cheapens the true depth of those identities, however, because you spend less emotional investment in them, and therefore less accuracy in how they portray you. You have less emotional attachment, and albeit less involvement.

Are there truly ghosts in the internet, or are they just digital superstition, an ideal for the paranoid?