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September 30, 2005

Don’t tell me when it’s due, I know how much work there is

How many times have you heard that from your development staff? As a developer, how many times have you said something like that? As a project manager or technical lead, you call a meeting to try and resolve these different perspectives. Many times, these meetings break down, issues remain unresolved, and team morale sinks lower. To have an effective discussion, remember these ground rules.

  1. Listen to the other person’s explanation of the problem and don’t interrupt until they finish. Until you understand the reasons behind the other person’s point, you can’t make informed decisions.
  2. Check the sarcasm at the door. All it does is undermine the discussion. You may think it provides humor, but you’re not Jay Leno. In the end, someone invariably gets hurt.
  3. Validate your understanding. After you’ve listened to the other position, try reiterating it in your own words. See if you come to agreement on the stated position.
  4. Stay cool. Getting into an argument helps no one and only serves to prolong the discussion. Take a deep breath and repeat after me, “We’re all on the same team.” Try counting to 10 and remember everyone has a different point of view.
  5. Keep an open mind. If you make assumptions about the other person’s perspective or think to yourself, “It’s just Joe”, you stop listening. Remember the first ground rule?
  6. Negotiate. If you put a stake in the ground, not only do you fail to resolve the issue, but you leave yourself backed into the corner. Instead of saying “There’s no way we can do that in 6 weeks” try stating positive alternatives. “We can complete feature x and y in 6 weeks. Feature z requires an additional 4 weeks.” On the flip side, if you’re the manager, ask what can be completed in the required time.

Customer requirements, new product deliveries, bug fixes... If you’re working in product delivery, you’re probably feeling stressed out with too much work and too little time. New demands on your overburdened schedule are likely to send you over the top. Remembering that everyone is on the same team, trying to reach the same goals is a start. Add in a few people principles and you’ll feel better about your work and your job. Combine them altogether for a more successful team. Isn’t that something that everyone wants?

Posted by Doug Griswold at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2005

Research Triangle Park #1 for Technology

Good news for those of us with businesses in the Research Triangle Park region. According to a new study, RTP ranked #1 in the US as the most hospitable place to run a tech business. This time, it beat out regional leaders like Boston, Austin, and Fairfax County. Where did Silicon Valley rate? Number 8 – dead last in the report.

Prepared by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the report is meant to “wake up” the Silicon Valley community to the competition they face. The report rates competitiveness in seven areas that affect business climate: the job market, housing, traffic, education, the cost of energy, health care and the business tax burden.

RTP led in two categories housing affordability and traffic congestion costs.

Posted by Doug Griswold at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2005

Large-scale data warehouse rankings

It looks like 2005 smashed several database records according to Winter Corp’s 2005 winners for the largest databases in the world. The big winners continue to be UNIX and Oracle, but Linux is making some serious inroads along with Microsoft Windows/SQL Server.

Yahoo operates the largest commercial data warehouse with over 100 terabytes of data – and it runs on UNIX. This monster relies on the Oracle Database, Fujitsu Siemens PrimePower system, and EMC storage. But at number 6 is Amazon.com with 24 terabytes running on Linux and Oracle. The largest commercial Windows/SQL server database runs at Unisys and is #8 on the list.

If you’re looking for a really huge database, the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology runs a massive 222.8 terabyte system. Technically, it’s not a data warehouse, but in this case, size does matter. And how do they do it? Linux and Oracle!

Posted by Doug Griswold at 10:05 AM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2005

Five questions for your web designer

Do the pages validate?
Is the HTML or CSS valid? The W3C provides a free validation services online at validator.w3.org and jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator. Valid HTML and CSS goes a long way towards ensuring your website will look right on various browsers.

Which browsers do you test on?
You want to make sure you audience is as wide as possible right? How does you website look on different browsers? According to thecounter.com, the top 4 browsers were Microsoft IE 6.x, Firefox, IE 5.x and Safari – for over 97% of the market. Will your site look good on them all?

What’s your layout, CSS or tables?
Since the introduction of Cascading Style Sheets, CSS, there has been movement away from table based designs. The standards bodies have stated that HTML tables should be used for tabular data only – not for layout. Layout should be separated from the content using style sheets. There are many advantages here: CSS sites load quicker, take up less bandwidth, are more accessible to handicapped visitors and are easier to print.

Are the pages search engine friendly?
Looking for information on the web? Where do you go first? If you answered google, yahoo, or msn then you’ve visited a major search engine. Search engines crawl and index the web so when we type phrases like “hobby shop raleigh” we get results instantly. To index the internet, these engines employ sophisticated algorithms to “rank” the results. The algorithms are proprietary and closely guarded trade secrets, but some information is available to the page designer. Use of page titles, heading tags, emphasis and keyword links all improve your chances of getting a higher ranking. Of course content is king, so don’t forget that!

What about the details?
Yes, there are a myriad of details that differentiate a professional website from an amateur one. Does you designer provide custom error pages or do you get the default 404 page? What about alt-tags on your images? If an image can’t load for some reason, the alt-tag will be visible. Hover-over help text – sometimes called “tool-tips” – can make your site more user friendly. A very small detail – in fact 16x16 bytes – is the favicon.ico. This icon associated with your site that appears in the browser’s address bar or next to your site name in a visitor’s bookmarks.

Posted by Doug Griswold at 06:12 PM | Comments (0)