Entries from January 2006 ↓

Links for January 29, 2006

10 Predictions for Software and the Internet
Originally published over a year ago, this post contains many intriguing predictions. #2 is an interesting business idea. #6 discusses a new internet community that will develop, essentially predicting MySpace or Digg.

Purchase Book Chapters from O’Reilly’s Safari Service
O’Reilly has a new online service that allows users to search and download books for a monthly fee. Pricing seems a little steep, starting at $10/month for 5 chapters, but they’re definitely taking a step in the right direction. Leave it to O’Reilly to lead the way.

Interruptions Consume 2.1 Hours of Every Day
From a recent microsISV.com article: “A research team from the University of California has published the results of a research study that shows that office workers work on average for only eleven minutes before being interrupted and that these interruptions consume approximately 2.1 hours of every working day. One expert is calling this ‘work-induced attention-deficit disorder’. The researchers found that once someone is interrupted it takes about 25 minutes to get back to the original task.”

Free CD/DVD Burning Software
Some claim this software is better than Nero, and any free burning software is worth checking out.

100 Cool Google Map Locations
The Hollywood sign, Statue of Liberty, Mt. Rushmore, the Vegas Strip, Area 51, and more…

The Ten Commandments of Egoless Programming

Here is a good list of 10 rules for how to play well with other programmers.

I especially like #10: “Critique code instead of people.”

Book Review: Lucky or Smart (Audiobook)

I’ve been listening to a lot of audiobooks lately, and one I just completed is Lucky or Smart? The Secrets of an Entrepreneurial Life.

Written by Bo Peabody, who founded Tripod and later sold it to Lycos for $58 Million while in his mid-twenties, the book explores his journey building a company and his insights into how to increase your chance of success while building a startup. He also touches on a handful of other businesses he’s started since his dot com success.

At only two hours, the book is a bit short for its $19.95 cover price, and I wish there were more details about his experience starting, growing, and ultimately selling Tripod. However, many of his insights proved to be unique and/or contrary to other popular business books, which make the book worthwhile.

His plan for starting a company is as follows:

  1. Start a company that is fundamentally innovative, morally compelling, and philosophically positive.
  2. Communicate a compelling mission.
  3. Have a clear action plan and communicate it.
  4. Treat your people fairly.
  5. Give them the latitude to exercise creativity.

The result of all this is serendipity, luck, success, and ultimately, money.

Two of his other comments were compelling because they challenge today’s wisdom:

  • A good decision made quickly is better than a great decision made slowly. He mentions books like Good to Great, and says that entrepreneurs who are growing a startup don’t have time to be great – they have to settle for being good, but doing it really fast.
  • Don’t believe your own press; in fact, don’t read. He recommends reading a weekly news magazine, like Time, and one other source of news. He reasons that if you spend all your time reading about other companies, you won’t have time to come up with your own brilliant ideas.

The best line of the book is given as he’s discussing the question everyone asks him about his success: “Were you lucky or were you smart?” It took him a few years to find the right answer, but he now replies “I was smart enough to know I was getting lucky.”

If you’re in the mood for an entrepreneur’s tales of success and his take on how to replicate it, then you should check out Lucky or Smart?.

10 Rules to Live By and Free Audiobooks

Ten Rules to Live By
Guy Kawasaki, longtime Macintosh evangelist and author of Art of the Start, has posted a speech he’s given at several graduations, and it’s downright brilliant.

Free Audiobooks
I stumbled upon a site called LibriVox that provides free audiobooks from the public domain, read by amateur readers. It includes favorites like Treasure Island, A Christmas Carol and The Constitution of the United States. Though they only have 30 or so completed works, there are many projects on the way.

The Question of Certification, an asp.netPRO Article

I’m convinced that trying to find a black and white answer to the question of certification is impossible. There are too many nuances to each situation to allow for a single, blanket answer.

In the current issue of asp.netPRO magazine (January 2006) I wrote an article titled Test Tales: The Trials and Tribulations of Taking a Microsoft Beta Exam (sorry, requires login). In it, I talk about the benefits of certification, explore the details of Microsoft’s new certification tracks, and talk in detail about the ASP.NET 2.0 beta exam I took a few months ago.

For me, the question of whether or not to certify has always been: will it help me get hired and will it increase my salary? Being involved in hiring for the past 2+ years and doing some internet research on salaries has convinced me that the answer to both is “yes.”

Will Certification Help Me Get Hired?
The three main components to a resume are: experience, education and certifications. There are others, such as publications, awards, and references, but the most commonly encountered parts are the one’s someone sees on first read and they dictate whether or not you get called in for an interview.

Experience is most important, with education and certifications following. When reviewing resumes I am always more likely to talk to a candidate with certifications, especially the multi-test tracks like MCAD.NET and MCSD.NET. A candidate with one of these certifications shows me they are interested in ongoing learning and growth, were willing to spend the time and money to study for and take the exams, and have enough experience to pass them. These are all desirable characteristics in a potential hire.

In fact, and I realize this is purely my own experience, every MCSD.NET that I’ve ever worked with has been substantially more knowledgeable and dedicated to the field than the average developer. This doesn’t mean you can’t be knowledgeable and dedicated to the field and not have a certification (I’ve worked with many who fit this description, as well), but the axiom of MCSD.NET = good developer has been consistently true for me.

Will Certification Increase My Salary?
From personal experience, a previous employer offered a $6,000 raise for an MCAD.NET and another $4,000 for an MCSD.NET (Unfortunately, I moved out of the area before earning either one). But $10,000 for passing 5 exams always sounded like a good deal to me.

Lest you think my deal was an isolated incident: according to a 2005 survey by Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine, about half of the survey respondents indicated their certifications made a difference in their salary.

If you’re interested in a closer look at reasons to get certified and the new Microsoft certification tracks, be sure to pick up a copy of the January issue of asp.netPRO, or read the article at Test Tales: The Trials and Tribulations of Taking a Microsoft Beta Exam (sorry, still requires login).

I Received an ASP.NET-related Email From a Money Magazine Writer

George Mannes, a writer for Money Magazine, emailed me the other day with a question about ASP.NET.

He’s writing an article about returning to the job market after an extended absence, and someone he interviewed made a passing mention of ASP.NET. He wanted to make sure he characterized it correctly (he asked “Is it a language, a technology, a development system?”).

This was cool for a few reasons:

  • First, it’s a compliment to be asked to verify technical information for a story. He contacted me through my blog, so he must have done a search for ASP.NET, read through my posts and decided I would be able to give him some insight into our acronym-riddled world of software development.
  • Second, I’m happy there are writers who take such pride in providing the correct information that they would go to the extent of contacting me to verify one sentence in an article about something unrelated to technology. Bravo.
  • Third, I’m a subscriber to Money Magazine, which means I’m looking forward to the February issue where I can see that one sentence in all its glory…

ChitChat.NET Discussion Forum Software is For Sale

Update: A potential buyer asked about the possibility of paying in installments. I’m open to accepting up to 6 monthly payments, so feel free to make an offer with this in mind.

I’m selling all rights to ChitChat.NET, the discussion forum software package written in ASP.NET for SQL Server. Along with the source code comes a domain name, www.clickcess.com which holds a Google Page Rank 4 and gets around 3500 unique visits per month, the ASP-based website located at www.clickcess.com, all images associated with the product and website, and all rights to SPROC function builder application.

ChitChat.NET comprises 300 hours of development time and is currently at version 2.1. The software comes complete with wizard installers for the application and the database, and is written entirely in object-oriented C# inside a VS.NET 2003 project. All data access is via stored procedures.

For a quick look at sites talking about or linking to the ChitChat.NET product, visit: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=chitchat+.net

Background
The product was written three years ago by Tom Holder, and promoted by his company Clickcess for two years before I purchased the rights from him in mid-2004. Tom sold approximately $3,000 worth of the product, and performed roughly $2,000 of enhancements paid for by customers, with little promotion.

I’ve been selling ChitChat.NET for the past 12 months, with total revenue of just over $2,300. The sole source of promotion has been through Google Adwords text ads (stabilizing at ~$20 per month). I’ve been asked to improve the product on an hourly consulting basis, but have been unable to fulfill customer requests for hourly enhancements due to other responsibilities.

That’s why I am selling the product; lack of time to properly develop and market it.

I spend 1-3 hours per month answering inquiry and support emails. I have not developed the product since purchasing it, except to fix bugs.

Deliverables
You will receive:

  • Full C# source code and VS.NET 2003 project for ChitChat.NET
  • Ownership of the domain name: www.clickcess.com, which holds a Google Page Rank 4 and gets around 3500 unique visits per month
  • Signed confirmation that all rights have been transferred, including all code, text and images from www.clickcess.com.
  • 3 months of email support to help you get started
  • List of Google Adwords I use to promote the product
  • I will also throw in all rights to the SPROC function builder which I have not marketed or sold. I’ve been informed that the source code is out of synch with the executable. After selling $1,200 worth of the product Tom began giving copies away to anyone who asked.
  • I would like to retain one multiple-server license of ChitChat.NET for my own use.

I will accept all offers over $2,300 for the next 3-4 weeks. The first offer over $5,500 will be automatically accepted.

If you are interested in purchasing this product, please contact me here.

The Five Basic Rules of Technical Recruiting (From a Customer’s Perspective)

I don’t want this to be an indictment of all recruiters – only the bad ones.

There has to be a better way.

In the past 9 months I’ve had more awful experiences with technical recruiters than with any other category of professionals in my entire working life. Being badgered on the phone, given the hard-sell, and being provided with un-screened candidates I could have found for free on Craigslist or Dice is not my idea of good customer service – nor my idea of a sustainable business model.

In fact, it’s gotten so bad that recruiters have become a joke around our office. Whenever someone receives a call from a pushy recruiter our ears perk up to hear how our comrade will be badgered, abused, and finally hang up the phone angrily because the person on the other end won’t stop talking long enough to listen to what we have to say. You’d think we were buying timeshares.

With commissions hovering around $20,000 a pop, it’s only a matter of time before someone comes along who’s respectful, listens to our needs, and does a reasonable job of screening candidates. When they do they’ll quickly wind up with more business than they can handle.

Here are the absolute basics of technical recruiting:

  1. Don’t Have 19-year olds Making Cold-Calls. It wastes my time and gives your firm a bad name. The only thing worse than cold-calls is cold-calls by someone who doesn’t listen, interrupts you, and has no idea what they’re talking about.
  2. No Means No. Let’s face it; the hard-sell went out with junk bonds and hula hoops. I hate it, you hate it, so why do we have to deal with it? Stop reading crappy sales manuals from 1988 and get with the times. If I say “no” and you don’t treat me with respect you’re going to be on the receiving end of a dial-tone.
  3. Learn the Technology. You don’t have to become an expert, but be able to discuss it intelligently. Know the difference between Java and JavaScript, ASP and ASP.NET, UML and XML.
  4. Listen. Has anyone else encountered the Micro-Machines guy? I’ve talked to several recruiters who rattle things off like auctioneers. I realize you’re busy…hey, we’ve all got things to do. But slow down, act like you care, and realize that just because you talk fast doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the time to listen.
  5. Screen Your Candidates. Does this really need to be on a list? I’ve received resumes with grammar so poor I could barely read them. I’ve done phone interviews with people who couldn’t tell SOAP from shampoo . Time and time again we’ve been asked for screening questions for common programmer skill sets. We’re paying upwards of $20k per placement…shouldn’t this be the recruiter’s job? If you have to hire a developer on an hourly basis to perform resume or phone screenings for you, do it. Just please stop passing the buck to us.

We’ve only found two recruiters in Los Angeles that are consistently respectful, never give us the hard-sell, and actually review resumes. Even though they don’t perform thorough technical screenings we give them our business because they are the best we’ve found.

How long before someone comes along and really starts servicing this big-money niche?

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