Saturday, April 28, 2007

The worst possible ways to manage people

A couple of the worst possible ways you can manage people:

  • Ostrich mentality (a.k.a. Head in the sand): Refers to the "ignore it and it will go away" attitude. Some managers think that if they just "leave it until next week" somehow the problem will just go away. No. It'll get worse. Act on it now.

  • Ditch digging theory of management: This is the belief that every task in business is the same as simple manual labour (like digging a ditch). In other words, they think that to make a project go faster, they just need to add more people ("horsepower"). No. Often adding more people to a complex project will just slow things down. Some things just take time.

  • Warm body theory of management: This is a person pet peeve of mine because I see it everywhere. This is the belief that people ("warm bodies") in the office, sitting at their desk somehow equals productivity. Some managers frown on personal time, and reward people who are there every day from 7am until 9pm. No. This will just cause burnout. Those people sitting at their desks are not being productive. They're playing solitaire… or reading this blog.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Economy slowing down?

Economic trends are notoriously hard to predict. Lately, I've been reading about (and seeing) some things that make me wonder if we've already entered a slow-down period. I'm no economic expert, but I have a few personal key indicators that I've seen change significantly over the past six months:

  1. Emails from recruiters: My resume is well indexed and during boom times I get 3-5 emails per week from recruiters (Usually for jobs that don't match my qualifications at all! Can't recruiters read?) I've seen this drop to less than 1 / week in the past few months

  2. Syllogistic job leads: I've been steadily optimizing and improving my online presence and advertising. Until recently, the number of leads was increasing along with this. Lately, this has started leveling off and perhaps even decreasing a bit.


Now, keep in mind that these two factors are heavily US-based (most of the leads I get are from the States). My guess is that the United States could be headed for (or is already in) a recession. And that means Canada won't be far behind...

Or maybe this is just a small blip on the graph I'm mistaking for a trend. We should know for sure by this time next year.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Salt is killing us!

An important study was released from Statistics Canada today. The report shows that Canadians, on average, eat way too much salt.

A CBC article about the study says excessive sodium intake (more than 2,300mg / day) "...can lead to health problems including hypertension. Hypertension can cause strokes, heart attacks and kidney failure and is one of the leading causes of death in Canada."

I don't eat fast food very often, but today I was traveling and had a Harvey's hamburger for lunch. How much does it take to get to 2,300mg?

Well, the burger itself has 540mg. The bun adds 360mg. The condiments are another 290mg. I also had a side salad (10mg) with half a package of light Italian dressing (160mg) plus a medium Brisk Iced Tea (100mg). That's a grand total of 1460mg - about 60% the Health Canada recommended daily intake, but almost 150% of the 1000mg that some health professionals recommend.

That's about as healthy a Harvey's meal as one can eat. Let's imagine I was less informed and ordered like I might have a few years ago. We'll start with a nice bacon cheeseburger (1095mg), condiments (290mg), and a large Iced Tea (135mg). Then, add my favourite - poutine. - a savoury 2360mg of sodium.

Yes, that adds up to 3880mg of sodium, all ingested in about 30 minutes or less. Yikes. No wonder people eat too much salt. It's just so yummy. And no wonder heart disease has been increasing like crazy the last few decades...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Canada Worse than 3rd World Countries when it comes to Mobile Data Access

Tom Purves has created a nice graph illustrating what I've suspected for a long time -- that Canada's wireless oligopolies are pricing services way out of line with what a competitive market would. Not only are data rates bad, but voice and long distance are more expensive than they should be as well.

Wireless providers are second only to the banking cartel in Canada for collusion and price-fixing. ISPs aren't far behind.

Unfortunately our Conservative government isn't going to be doing anything about this any time soon.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Stability problems with ASP / .NET

People always try to tell me that IIS / ASP / ASP.NET is just as stable as Apache / PHP.

The Canada Post website has been down for hours, simply displaying:

A ScriptEngine threw expection 'C0000005' in 'IActiveScriptParse::ParseScriptText()' from 'CActiveScriptEngine::AddScriptlet()'.



I know C0000005 errors well from my Win32 C++ programming. It's a generic "access violation" or crash error. It means something is seriously wrong.

Now, you can tell me, "They haven't applied patch X", or, "They haven't configured Y properly", but I see this sort of thing all over the net. Even Microsoft's own pages have these errors from time to time.

On the other hand, I rarely see PHP error messages. Even when I do, they're typically "can't connect to database" timeouts on an overloaded server, as opposed to major system crashes like the message above.

I continue to assert that Apache/PHP is generally more stable than IIS/ASP.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Software development is not like building a house

A common problem with software development project management is that most people don't really understand how it works. Programmers are often likened to construction workers. Managers view them as skilled labour, like a carpenter or brick-layer. If you want something built faster, you hire more people, and things go quicker.

Software engineering is a different beast, though. Fred Brooks wrote The Mythical Man Month in 1974, and it is often considered the "bible" of software engineering. In the book, he explains how creating software is different.

Brook's Law states that "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later." It's important to keep teams small and agile, especially in the early stages when the architecture is in flux.

Creating usable, high-quality software takes a lot of time, skill and experience. Trying to cut a deadline by adding more people will almost guarantee the opposite effect.