Archive for January, 2008

Blogging, Blogging Everywhere

January 30, 2008

Just a bit of work news: we’ve kicked off a WhitePages Developer Blog. When your brand is commonly associated with the phone company, it’s difficult to begin a conversation with assumed technical credibility – but the scale and complexity of what we do is legitimately interesting and there are deep software & operational design issues behind supporting hundreds of millions of queries/month on a capex shoestring, and I’m hoping we highlight – and share – that information with technical friends across the globe.

Anyway, I have the first two posts, including one about our just-completed Hack Week.


I’m like a nerd in a nerd store

January 15, 2008

It’s been ~10 years since I coded for a living (or a grade). While I figured out early that I didn’t need to be writing code in order to get a sense of satisfaction from software design, development, and deployment, I still like to write code.

This is a problem.

Every twelve-eighteen months I pick up a project. The last few years, they’ve been for work, but they’ve been “optional” – i.e. the business could continue to run (thank goodness) if I didn’t do them. And each time, I have the same set of realizations:

  • The role of early learning in language development applies well for software language development – i.e. if you learn a language early, even if you don’t use it very often, you’re still more likely to recall it then if you learned it late. The first language I learned that had referencing and dereferencing was Scheme; the first one where I actually understood it was C. Even though I haven’t written C code in a looong time, I can still remember how to manage C pointers without much thought.

    I’ve been programming off-and-on in Perl for 10+ years, and I still can’t remember how to use $ and @ and @{$_} and $# and other syntactic sugar without making lots of mistakes and refreshing myself every single time. It’s not all Perl’s fault. (Just mostly.)

  • Old habits don’t die hard – they just don’t die. I started as a ready-fire-aim programmer, and every time I start again, I’m a ready-fire-aim programmer. On each product, I design, code, hack, stop, design, code, hack. (At least now I put the design first.) Then I just stop for a while and relearn the concepts (like the ones above) so I stop wasting time.
  • I still get excited about programming – I start a project and I don’t want to stop, I think about it when I’m not working on it, I end up working until late in the night, it takes at least a week for me to start breaking projects into stopping points rather than just stopping when I’m exhausted (or when, y’know, my family needs me for something). I’m glad I’m still motivated by the rush to create.

Anyway, I’m programming now, at least until the end of the week, in between management meetings and interviews and other management meetings and watching my younger daughter learn to sit up. And I couldn’t be happier.

Roundhousing the Secretary of State

January 3, 2008

Two notes on the Iowa caucuses:

1) I love the caucus process: the arcane rules confuse me, of course, but I love that at the beginning of our selection process, passion plays such a large role – individuals get up on Speaker’s Corners to convince each other about the candidates who visited their homes, who shook their babies and kissed their hands, who they actually met. We don’t gather any more to persuade each other, and I’m ok with the undemocratic, even peer-pressured nature of the public gathering to help us select the people to believe in.

2) I do find it strange that a winning candidate tonight had Chuck Norris behind him, and a losing candidate had Madeleine Albright.
Huckabee Hillary

Photogamer: Live the Dream

January 3, 2008

I’m participating in Photogamer 2008, at least through January, or at least through January 3. (Photogamer is brought to the interwebs by Bre Pettis, who I met at Seattle Mind Camp, and Hilary SomebodySmartImSure.) You can see my photostream on the right column of this here page or on Flickr, plus there’s a group photogamer pool.

I’m not a very good photographer and I haven’t done any learnin’, but I’ve always appreciated good amateur photographers, and I know that the rise of digital cameras gives the amateur so many more opportunities to learn from each photo they take (of still scenarios, at least). I’m doing this on-the-fly, mostly with my iPhone, so I’m focused only on composition – no editing, color correction, etc. – and plan to take photos by happenstance. I’m hoping to have learned “something” by the end of the month, both from the photos I take and the photos I see.

Thanks, Bre & Hilary!

(BTW, I abandoned the project after about a week, when I was asked to take a picture of my foot. I just couldn’t get motivated. The project has moved a bit more abstract, which had been my early hope, but…)