What have you done for me lately?

Don’t worry! This is not yet another “I haven’t blogged because…” post. It’s similar though: it’s to aggregate all the cool material I’ve been producing lately instead of writing on my personal blog!

Without further ado, here’s the goodies from the past:

Oh yeah, there’s also some stuff going on in the present:

Finally, here’s some cool stuff I might possibly do in the near future:

  • I’ve worked several months in a Java/Maven/Spring project, which lures me to write about the differences between Java and C#. No promises though!
  • 2018-01-xx: excited to start on a project that uses ClojureScript, hurray for opportunities to learn stuff! Might even write about it, here or on Infi’s blog.
  • 2018-xx-xx: blog post about Top 100 Games is in progress, though no promises here!
  • 2018-xx-xx: a side project that gets sidelined a lot, I still intend to finish EmpGrid some time.

Several things on these lists I want to blog about, but I’m not ready to commit to anything yet. Stay tuned!

Job Hunting Checklist

Having recently switched jobs, now is probably the best possible time for me to write about the applicant’s side of vacancies and job searches in IT. Specifically, I want to give my take on maximizing the chance you’ll land a job at a place you’d want to work at. Put differently, below is (mostly) my own plan for finding a new job.

But wait: that’s not specific enough for a blog post yet! There’s a lot to job hunting. So let me narrow it down to the asynchronous ways to communicate with prospective employers.

What I mean here by “asynchronous“? Well, that includes just about everything that’s not real-time (face-to-face or phone conversations, chat, etc.). I will run down these “channels” one by one, including specific tips for each.

By the way, I hear you thinking: “But that sounds like just a big check list!?”. It is. But hey: check lists are great! Use this one to your advantage. Let’s get started with the basics.

General tips

Several things are important for all of the async channels. Remember:

  • Choose a great avatar you’ll be happy with for a long time to come, and stick with it. Everywhere! This will take a few years to settle in, but after a while it’ll help people recognize you across the board.
  • Be smart about your e-mail addresses. Preferably, you’d get your own domain, use addresses like some-org@yourname.com and github@yourname.com. Alternatively, use the + sign lifehack to differentiate. This will help you separate incoming mail reliably, lets you know who’s leaked or sold your e-mail, and gives you a minor edge with tech orgs because they’ll notice you’ve given things some thought.
  • Do or do not, there is no try. To put it in my own words: either do something right, or don’t do it at all. For example: it’s better to have no LinkedIn profile than an out-of-date one.
  • Try to do as many of the list below as possible, but consider this tip strictly lower priority than the previous tip!
  • Use language correctly, or at least as correct as possible. It’s easy to use a spell checker, proofread, do some proofreading, and do some more proofreading. Tip: read your writing (semi) aloud to yourself to find bugs in your writings.

Okay, so enough with the generic mumbo jumbo. Off to specifics!

Your CV

A lot has already been written about this, so I won’t repeat the basics. But I will make a few important additional points:

  • Decide: short or long. Both are fine. If you go short: try to fit everything on one single page. This is really hard (I could never do it!), but if you can manage it’ll demand respect and it’ll be useful to the reader. If you go long: use “scannable” text and styles (tables, bullet lists, emphasis, and so forth).
  • Use a (non-default) theme. The theme (and sticking strictly to it) will help prevent your CV from becoming ugly. Only try to make a “beautiful” CV if you know how to design or have help in this department.
  • Read “The Non-Designer’s Design Book. It’s a “Must-Have” if you insist on tweaking styles (like me), and when you’re also (like me) not a great designer. It’ll at the least help you prevent your CV from becoming ugly.
  • Use serif fonts. Sans-serif might look nicer on (non-retina) screens, but most of the time folks will read a print of your CV. On paper, a serif font is easier to read.

Open Source platforms (Github, Gitlab, etc)

This one’s not for everyone. Whatever you do or don’t do: be conscious about your choices. That doesn’t mean everything has to be perfect, but do mind the things that are easy to get right. Think about cleaning up utter garbage repos, using correct language when commenting on issues, etc.

If you do decide to work on open source, note that you don’t necissarily need to become a maintainer of a high esteemed project to be noticable. Here are some easier ways to get started:

  • Pet projects are something to put online. Place a big disclaimer that the code should be viewed as such, and you’re fine putting out non-production-worthy code.
  • Create a demo project that shows off how you prefer to code. It’s fine to “reinvent the wheel” or even create yet another “To Do App”, as long as you focus on the code being in “your” style. Place a big disclaimer that the code should be viewed as such, and you’re fine.
  • Create Issues for other projects. Creating an issue with a good repro is usually well-received, and displays qualities very important in day-to-day tech work.
  • Find up-for-grabs issues in a project you’d like to contribute to. Or even open your own (most projects will welcome improvements to documentation, for example).

On a side note, it can also be good to spend some time looking at the source code of open “famous” source projects in your tech stack. It hones your code-reading skills, and demystifies the black boxes they tend to be. Although this isn’t directly visible to prospective employers, it does have intrinsic value and might be a gateway to your own contributions some day.

Community Forums and Q&A (Stack Overflow, etc)

On the one hand I see this different from the previous point (Open Source), on the other hand it kind of isn’t. Specifically Stack Overflow (of which I’m somewhat a fan, as they distribute all content freely, for one because the data is licensed by users at least under CC-By-SA.

Asking questions is probably the easiest way to get started. Note that exemplary questions are a great way to show off your skill: being able to grasp and neatly summarize a reproducible problem is perhaps the number one skill a developer can have. I’ve asked multiple questions I’d proudly show off as part of my resumé.

Answering questions is a lot harder. This is another whole topic on itself so let me just sprinkle some basic advice. First, the “gamefication” can be fun but should not be your primary motivation. Instead, answer to learn about topics. Choose a low(ish) traffic tag to answer questions in, or you’ll get frustrated by the fastest gun in the west: other people will answer extremely fast so you don’t seem to have a chance. And finally: keep at it.

My first few questions and answers on Stack Overflow were pretty bad, but practice makes perfect! For every ten answers with even one upvote there’s at least one that turns out to help a lot of other folks. Seeing a small “+1” trickle in on an old question is a great, warm feeling.

A personal website

Get a personal domain, preferably something with your name in it. Make it a single page with at least:

  • A very basic bio: one or two lines of text about who you are.
  • A generic e-mail address (one that doesn’t matter if it gets a bit of spam).
  • Links to any social media accounts, e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, but also Meetup, Goodreads, or other media that are professionally relevant.
  • Links to open source profiles, e.g. your GitHub profile or Stack Overflow flair.

Then, optionally, you could do any of these:

  • Link to your blog (see next section).
  • List of your projects, e.g. pet projects, portfolio stuff, your master’s thesis, etc.
  • Link to interesting other sites, e.g. tech blogs you enjoy.
  • A short occupation history if you’re inclined to make that public.
  • Some schema.org info and meta tags for SEO and generally showing off mad skills with details.
  • Ninja-counter-recruitment in your source code, just as organizations do.

A personal blog

Also not for everyone, but it certainly does help showing off enthusiasm, writing skills, and really whatever you want to show off. Blogging about tech is great, but mixing with non-technical posts works even better.

And in addition to exposure, there’s a far more compelling reason to blog: writing helps you organize your thoughts. Having to clearly express your thoughts or opinion about something should also make you think really hard about that thing.

Gaining a bigger audience is a challenge on its own, not usally directly related to the writing itself. So think long and hard before you decide to go down that road, because you’ll have to double down on community-building to get somewhere. But then again: I feel you can get a lot out of a blog without a big audience, too, by just writing to organize your thoughts.

Social Media

Warning: only do this if you enjoy it! The days of “needing” to be on social media to fit in are gone with Gangnam Style and the rest of 2016. Having said that, social media can be helpful in building your online profile.

First up: be consistent. Be consistent with your tag line, title, etc. Be conscious about what you make public and what you keep private. Don’t be afraid to create only a simple account that just links through to another platform; for example, you could create a LinkedIn profile that just tells folks to check your own website.

For the rest this comes down to personal preference. For me, Twitter and a wee bit of LinkedIn are primary professionally used social media. Google+ I find useless for most things, and Facebook is purely a thing for friends and family for me.

As a footnote it’s also worth noting that there are outliers. Goodreads is something I only use because I find the platform interesting, and I keep my professional bookshelf there. Also, Meetup.com has been popular the last two years, so I guess that also counts as a medium to be conscious about.

In closing

Bear with me while I digress a bit. Suppose you want to set up a perfect romantic date with someone. To maximize chances of success, you prepare all the things that can be reasonably prepared. You make sure there’s food, drinks, music, but also toilet paper, running water, etc.

Now let’s zoom in on the food. If you’re a chef or if you like cooking you might go out of your way a bit to cook something fancy, though you probably shouldn’t go too risky (unless that’s part of your charm…). If you hate cooking dinner you might order in something nice, and focus more on other things. In other words:

  • Do or don’t do! There is no “try”.
  • Min-Max All The Things™ that you do.

Back to the point. Maximizing your chances for a perfect job works the same as setting up that perfect date night. Be conscious about what you focus on. Be smart about what you do or don’t do. And whatever you decide you will do: do it right!


Footnote: his was also cross-posted to the Infi company blog.

New Beginnings

In less than two weeks, I’ll be starting a fresh challenge at Infi. I hope (and think) I will bring things to the table, but I’ve also already noticed that there will be a lot of new things for me to learn. I honestly feel that a large portion of your skills and knowledge can be best gained from other people (online, or in real life, doesn’t matter), which is why I’m very excited about this new beginning!

I’m pretty sure that this fresh start will influence what I’ll be writing about on my blog. I’ve got some ideas, but even more so I think additional concrete ideas will start to flow in the coming months.

But first, before we get to that, there will be (a) a very short vacation, and (b) a short period of silence while I get settled. After that, you can expect the reports to flow in again here. See you then!

WordPress, Rowspan, and Feedly

From my previous blogpost I learned that combining WordPress, the rowspan attribute, and Feedly will result in a Picasso-like rendering of your post. This blog doesn’t have “Meta” in its title, and that’s not for nothing. So let’s examine this beast.

Here’s the markup:

And here is that exact table in this very blog post:

Header 1 Header 2
Top-left cell with rowspan = 2 Top-right cell
Bottom-right cell

This will render just fine in both the WordPress editor, like this:

Table with rowspan

And it will also render just fine in WordPress itself, like this:

Table with rowspan in WordPress

 

You can check out how this rendered in Feedly by visiting the actual website for this blog:

Table rendered in Feedly

Which is ugly, but technically just fine! (It’s only missing or ignoring the full-width css attribute.)

So, what went wrong with my previous post? In case you wouldn’t believe me (but you do, don’t you?!), here’s an annottated rendering of that post in Feedly:

Faulty table rendering

Basically, the green bit should’ve come below the table, but instead it got lumped into the bottom right cell. If I check the rendered html in Feedly using the Chrome dev tools, I can see that it does indeed do this.

I’ve checked in my RSS feed and found the culprit, it’s actually WordPress that renders faulty html:

There’s a rogue </p> tag there! In WordPress and its themes this doesn’t matter, as it’s probably simply ignored. But Feedly seems to parse and slightly rewrite (for adding in inline styles for rendering) the post html, causing rendering issues.

Lesson learned: be wary of how WordPress will render your post. :-)

Aggregated online interactions

This blog hasn’t seen much action lately, but that’s a misrepresentation of my online interactions. Most of my interaction in the past few months has been on Stack Overflow Q&A, and some on Stack Overflow “Documentation” as well as a small amount on GitHub. I wanted to aggregate some of those interactions on my blog, as well as perhaps cross-post bits and pieces here, mainly for my own reference.

Let’s start with the first: aggregating the bits and pieces that I want to have easy links to.

Stack Overflow Documentation

  • Showcasing all common Angular constructs“. I’m linking to the most up to date version. I wrote V1 of that article, which was subsequently improved by various other folks. It’s the tutorial (and equally important: the style of tutorial) I wish I’d had when I started learning Angular.
  • KnockoutJS “Equivalents of AngularJS bindings“. Linked page summarizes the state SO Documentation is currently in, at least for low-traffic tags: little and poor collaboration, and some frustration because some decent examples I wrote just don’t get reviewed (neither approved nor rejected). Thinking I might turn my content there into a (series of) blog post(s) here. Not sure yet.

Stack Exchange Q&A

At around 20 questions and 200 answers in 2016 so far I’d say I’m “moderately active”. Here’s a few that stood out when I browsed through my recent history:

I also gave SoftwareRecs.SE another shot, posting some questions, but they fit right into my question history: lots of unanswered tumbleweeds. And not for lack of trying, as I spend a lot of effort on making my questions there as good as they can be. The main reason I do that (and the reason I keep coming back to softwarerecs.se, in spite of the tumbleweed-factor) is that thinking carefully about your wishes and requirements at the least will help you find something yourself, if no-one else recommends anything.

And even though I haven’t interacted with Cooking.SE much lately, every stray upvote now and then to my “Cooking fish in a dishwasher” answer makes me smile.

GitHub

I don’t interact as much here yet as I’d like. I specifically wish I remembered more often than a measly four times to create gists, because the ones I did create are ones I tend to go back to. In addition to gists, I’ve gotten to creating only very few issues and pull requests, something I want to work on.

One shoutout by the way to the DefinitelyTyped repository, because that community has to deal with a really scattered committer base, and seem to do so pretty well. My pull request (though small) was reviewed and merged quite quickly.

In Closing…

What to do next? The tags I followed on Stack Overflow for answering seem to have dried up a bit. Perhaps some more interaction on GitHub, as well as re-editing some of the above links into blog posts? Then again, a few weeks of vacation to Hawaii are coming up as well, so it might be a while again before posting…

A New Hope

Did I mention before that I write here to collect my thoughts and as writing practice? Well, in any case, after my previous monster post, and given that it’s the start of a new year, I figured I’d do a “New Beginnings” post. Then the sci-fi addict in me awoke and typed “A New Hope“, even though I’m a Trekkie at heart. But I digress.

I wanted to summarize which technologies and experiments I’m most interested in pursuing next. Let me try to list them in order of current preference.

1. Elasticsearch …. and Nest?

Elastic as a (primary?) data store intrigues me. It feels like a second chance for Lucene towards me (experimenting with Solr didn’t “click” for me). There recently was a major version released so it seems like a great time to start investigating. I’m hesitant about Nest though, which you’d kind-of have to use if you want to access Elastic with .NET: during my first few experiments I felt like I was “wrestling” the API.

2. Gulp, or: More Gulp!

I’ve done quite some work with Gulp recently, and it was a very (and surprisingly) fun experience! In the past, most devops tasks felt like chores to me, but not so much with this Gulp. So this point would actually be “More Gulp” (as I’ve done quite a bit of it recently already), but I still have quite a list of things I want to try out, like for instance setting up JSCS.

3. Node

Yes, yes, I know: I’d be a hipster-after-the-fact if I’d start on Node now. Even so, I enjoy writing Javascript, and Node would be a way to do even more of it in my pet projects. Not sure how I would be utilizing Node yet: with ExpressJS, for custom (Gulp) packages, general scripting, or perhaps something like project Euler.

4. Linux

This one’s been on my mind for a while now: perhaps I’ve been stuck too much in my Windows-comfort-zone. It would be good to shape up my base knowledge of Linux as a development environment.

5. Grunt

Why yes, in addition to Gulp there’s also Grunt on this list. Gotta know what’s on the other side of the fence to be able to compare, right?


I’m placing a short but distinct separation here, because these are currently mostly “in reserve” kind of ideas.


6. Couchbase

Working a little with this at work as well. There’s a few things I’d be excited about to try at home, mostly features from version 3 and 4. Would need a “subject” though to make it interesting…

7. Study three-way-diff-tools

For some reason I never got my mind wrapped around these tools. And that’s frustrating. I should just spend a few hours trying to understand the details of these tools… I guess.

8. Raspberry / something IoTish

This one’s on the list because it nags me that I don’t see what all the rage with IoT is (or is it “was”?) about, and for that reason I feel like I have to “make Slackbot call a webhook that calls my webserver that calls my Raspberry which turns on a LED strip and autopilots a drone around in my room”. Or something.

9. Android app

I’m curious how the Android-dev-experience compares to my short experiments from around 2011. This would also allow me to revisit Java. But on a whole I feel I’d have to invest a lot of time or not do this one at all.

10. Closure Compiler

It’s on the list because I find the idea of it intrinsically interesting. It’s low on the list because I’m not sure if I work on things personally or professionally at the moment where this would be worth the investment.


Wow, that worked like a charm! Apologies for the stream-of-consciousness post, but now I do know what to do next! And I’m not even going back to adjust the (order of the) list accordingly, I’m just gonna leave you all hanging out there, guessing at what’s next…

Finishing Bieb – Prelude

I will finish version 1.0 of Bieb in 2015!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

You know that awkward feeling you get, when you’ve committed to some idea, merely by expressing it out loud or putting it in writing, and you can’t get yourself to do it? Yeah, “guilt” of some sort. I know, I get that too. I’ve had this for some time now, because I publicly stated I’d finish things.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion There’s a fantastic book on the subject which explains in detail how you should let rational thoughts trump previously stated intentions. I have applied this advice to my own situation, and rationally evaluated my publicly stated intention of finishing Bieb before doing anything else.

So here are the facts I gathered:

  1. I haven’t posted for 5 months, and I feel bad about that, because I’ve had ideas and things I wanted to post about.
  2. Hunting for a possible new job took a lot of time (I wasn’t even sure whether I should be looking for one), giving me a reasonable excuse not to work on a “big” pet project like Bieb.
  3. More recently, having found a new job, I’ve been spending almost all my free time studying new technologies I’ll be using soon. This is a very reasonable excuse to postpone blogging and pet projects.
  4. I’ve been tempted to start off new pet projects, but didn’t dare because I felt it would’ve been Bieb’s death sentence.
  5. The Windows Azure dashboard overwhelmed me. I want and perhaps even need to use it for rolling out Bieb, and it’s probably great, but wanting to do everything right the first time around doesn’t combine well with how extensive it is.
  6. I’m going to try out speaking at small events by giving a Lightning Talk at the next DomCode meetup, which takes away time from other hobbies like blogging and pet projects.
  7. I really, really, want to actually finish a 1.0 version of Bieb.

Okay, I was lying. Those were not “facts I gathered”. Those were thoughts, more or less chronologically ordered. And they can be summarized as:

  1. I want to give up on Bieb.
  2. I have all sorts of excuses for at least postponing it.
  3. But wait: I do not want to give up on Bieb!

So, ratio tells me: ignore wanting to give up, postpone finishing it for a reasonable while, and then finish it. Basically, I’m publicly restating my intention of finishing it, this time even attaching a deadline.

I will finish version 1.0 of Bieb in 2015!

You can hold me to that promise. I know I will.

Finishing Things

Nearly without exception have I used Title Case in my post titles. This time though, it’s more appropriate than ever. The “Things” I speak of are my “open” Projects. Unfinished things that feel Big, but that can either be small, or at least be done in small pieces.

Yes, you’ve guessed correctly, I’ve made my choice: I’m going to finish and/or wrap up loose ends.

You know what? I’ve already started. In fact, I’ve already wrapped up the first project, which probably means that I’ll write (after months of silence) a third post in one week.

Projects to Wrap Up

But let’s not get ahead of myself. The set of projects I want to wrap up is this subset of projects you can find on my www:

  • BattleTop. My RPG initiative app. Reached fully-functional beta status. However, with less and less Table Top RPG sessions, it’s hard to fully test and further develop the app. Gonna Wrap It Up!
  • TimeLine. An app to visualize grouped timelines, though in honesty a personal playground for new html5 semantic elements. Did not get past prototype status. Gonna Wrap It Up!
  • DotaGrid. A pragmatic tool hacked together to customize the Dota 2 hero picker. Reached beta status, but wasn’t really meant to go beyond that anyways: heck, the code is grouped in a file called “MyMonolithicApp.js”. Gonna Wrap It Up, though I might update it occasionally with new heroes if I feel like it.
  • Bieb. A somewhat bigger project to create a website showcasing books you have in your own library. Not even in alpha status yet, will have to see how I will Wrap It Up…

That’s it! I’m looking forward to wrapping those projects up. Hopefully it’ll give me some closure, and by side effect some energy to start new projects!

Stay tuned for the first wrap-up-post.

Starting a New Series

It’s been a while since my last post. I miss writing though, so here’s my plan to get back on track. I’ll do it similar to last time I needed to “reboot”, only I haven’t decided on a topic yet. Here are my current ideas:

  • Infographic katas. This would be a nice opportunity to refresh my Photoshop skills.
  • Finishing my projects. I’ve got several smallish OSS projects, I’d love to be finishing them; or, if not finishing, then at least wrapping them up. Writing about it may be what’s needed to get me started.
  • Graphs.  I love to find weird correlations and graph them, not much unlike an XKCD copycat. Perhaps such a series could be fun.
  • Review OSS codebases. I’ve been meaning to do that more structurally anyway, to get a better grasp of how some of them work. I may as well use it as content for my blog.

I’m not sure which one I’ll pick, if any of them. But at least I’m back on my feet thinking about writing again!

The Cost of Buying a House

Buying (and moving into) a house will cost you some downtime in blogging. Some 127 days of downtime, to be precise. But, for me, it was worth it!

Now to get back into the game. For a few weeks now I’ve been trying, but haven’t been able to do so. Why? Not sure. How will I solve it? By doing what I do best: dissect the situation into a well organized overview.

Here’s a list of all the topics I feel I may write about.

Metaphors & Analogies

I love metaphors and analogies, especially when it comes to explaining IT stuff to non-technical folk. This includes but is not limited to the subtype “explanations for x year old” (here’s a great example with Dependency Injection). Some specific topics I enjoy:

  • The difference between Stubs, Fakes, and Mocks, possibly using Santa Clause in the explanation.
  • Differences between types of software testing.
  • Finding appropriate titles for bug tickets that appeal to non-technical folk.
  • A concise description of what I do at work.

Tools of 2013

Maybe I should write about some the tools I started using (more) in 2013:

  • KnockoutJS, a client (JavaScript) MVVM library.
  • Jenkins (CI software) and/or PowerShell scripting.
  • Browser charting libraries.
  • CSS extensions like SASS and LESS.
  • Twitter Bootstrap.

Tools of 2014

Some things I may want to get into some more this coming year:

  • Even though I sometimes hate it: Java. But only if I can get my hands on a Glass.
  • Check out the competition for KnockoutJS.
  • Some of the Apache projects like SOLR, Hadoop, etc.
  • Differences between various DI Containers.

Pet Peeves

Here are some things that keep coming back:

Hmm, surely I have more pet problems? Maybe I should retrofit any I think of into this list.

Gaming

Two things come to mind for this category:

  • An overview of my favorite / most played games;
  • Something about my latest “addiction”: DOTA 2.

Miscellaneous

Making lists is one of the things I’m good at, but still I always end up with this category. Oh well, some final thoughts I may (or may not) write about:

  • Things about The House.
  • Choosing and/or building a home entertainment solution.
  • An update about my Book List.
  • Anything that can serve as a vehicle to practice making Infographics.

In any case: stay tuned!