About Duffbert...

Duffbert's Random Musings is a blog where I talk about whatever happens to be running through my head at any given moment... I'm Thomas Duff, and you can find out more about me here...

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Co-author of the book IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide

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Co-author of the book IBM Sametime 8.5.2 Administration Guide

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Some changes coming to this blog over the next week or so...

Category blogging
I've been contemplating moving this blog to WordPress for a number of months, but I've been too lazy/busy/distracted to take the first steps to do so.  Mitch Cohen did a great series of posts (1, 2, and 3) explaining how to move from BlogSphere to WordPress, and Matt White donated his agent to export data to the proper XML format.  I also paid attention to how things went for John Roling and Kathy Brown when they did the same.  So once I get the hosting piece set up, I'll start testing the move and formatting of data.  Should be interesting...

A couple of side notes...

I started blogging back in February of 2003.  Little did I know how blogging would define much of what I've done in the last ten years, nor what and where the blog would end up going.  I've written nearly 3900 posts since then, some memorable, many forgettable, a couple regrettable, but they're all mine for better or worse.  There are a few entries I plan on deleting from here before I do the migration.  Mostly, those posts are the daily job postings I did on my blog before I moved that content onto a separate blog (http://lotusjobs.wordpress.com).  Since these posts have (in my opinion) no value due to the passage of time, I'm taking the opportunity to clean them out.  I may run across a few other entries that have no value due to being time-sensitive or whatever, but I won't be deleting anything that could be construed as "revising history."  For better or worse, I own my posts and my words, and I'm not going to play the "I never said that" game.

Also, my move away from BlogSphere should NOT in any way, shape, or form be taken as a commentary on or dissatisfaction with the blogging software or Notes/Domino in general.  Declan Sciolla-Lynch did a phenomenal job when he created BlogSphere, and it's the reason that (again, in my opinion) the Notes blogging community took off.  I will forever be grateful to Dec for everything he's done for the Lotus community.

So... if you try and find something in the next couple of weeks and you find that the blog looks different... that's why.


Book Review - Stay Close by Harlan Coben

Category Book Review Harlan Coben Stay Close
Stay Close

I recently finished the latest book from Harlan Coben titled Stay Close.  My favorite books by Coben are the ones in the Myron Bolitar series, but the stand-alone titles aren't too bad either.  Stay Close is in the stand-alone category, and I thought it was an enjoyable read.  If I were headed on vacation for a week or so, packing this book as reading material would have been worth the weight...

The general story revolves around three individuals who are all trying to figure out what happened on a single night 18 years ago.  Ray Levine was an award-winning photographer until that night... now he's down and out, working as a fake paparazzi for hire.  Megan Pierce was a stripper who ran away that night and put the life behind her.  Her past remained buried for all these years, but people who know her real identity are starting to show up, threatening to disrupt her safe and secure existence.  Broome is a detective who is haunted by the disappearance of a man that night, and checks in with the wife on each anniversary, each year telling her that there have been no new leads.  These three lives start to intertwine when Ray is mugged after a job, but something is off.  The attacker is only interested in his camera, and Ray can't figure out why when the attacker could have also taken his money and what few valuables he had.  But when he reviews the pictures previously uploaded prior to the mugging, he finds that he has one image that someone may want to keep hidden... and will do anything to make sure it stays that way.

Overall, I liked the story.  I would have preferred the pace to be a little faster, as some of the action drifted a bit in the middle with no clear sense of where things were headed or why certain things were happening.  I would have also liked to have known a bit more about the background of the two "freelancers", and why they were as screwed up as they were.  Still, I wasn't putting the book down very often, and as of late, that's saying something.

I would have preferred to have another Bolitar to dive into, but Stay Close was an acceptable substitute... this time. :)

Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed


User group meetings... the technology may be different, but the feeling is the same...

Category Lotus Notes SharePoint
Today I attended my first SharePoint Saturday event here in Portland.  For those who don't know, SharePoint Saturday is a concept started a few years back where a group of committed people in the SharePoint community decided to hold a one-day user group meeting on a Saturday, complete with multiple sessions and various vendors, all at no cost to the attendees.  This idea has spread world-wide, all community-led and vendor-sponsored, targeted to share information among professionals and/or end-users focusing on various angles and aspects of SharePoint.

As someone who has been involved at various levels with Lotus user group meetings in various locations, I couldn't help but compare the two types of meetings and compare/contrast what I observed.  What I found is that if you filter out the technology, they were pretty similar.  The people organizing the events are doing so for the good of the community, and they do an incredibly hard job to make everything look effortless to the attendees.  Vendors sponsor the meetings so that the attendees don't have to spend anything.  The speakers all have various backgrounds and expertise areas, and they're spending their own time and money to share what they know with others.  They're passionate about their technology, much like the Lotus professionals are passionate about theirs.  There were even vendor giveaways at the end that made hanging around worth it.

 It's tempting to say that the Lotus community is special and different, and that other technologies don't have the same sense of "family" that we see and experience.  Yes, we *do* have a strong sense of community, and I have a hard time imagining what my life would be like without the people I interact with on a daily basis.  But moving into the SharePoint world doesn't mean that you have to give up being part of a community of like-minded technology professionals.  Yes, you *do* need to start building your network again, and it will feel different for a while.  But if you put forth the effort, I'll contend that you can and will have that same experience with the SharePoint community (or whatever technology you've moved to) as you had with the Lotus community.

I'll admit that I struggle to "leave behind" a reputation and expertise level earned over 15 years.  The new learning curve is steep, and I wonder if I'll ever be as good at SharePoint (or at least have the same level of involvement and success) as I've been with Notes and Domino.  But sitting in sessions today, I found myself starting to drift into thoughts of "I wonder if I could put together a session of..."  I know I can speak to groups... I know I can do what I've done with my Lotus speaking and writing... "just share what you've learned and figured out".  I don't have to know more than all the experts.  I just need to be willing to share what I do know, and someone else will always be at the same point I'm at... getting started, trying to figure out what's going on, and looking for someone to explain things in an understandable format.

And once that happens, it's like nothing ever changed...

If nothing else today, I came away with a renewed appreciation for all of you who take on the challenge of organizing a user group meeting on the scale that we see them occur today.  I'll forever be appreciative to Paul Mooney, Warren Elsmore, and the dedicated group of ILUG and UKLUG organizers that changed the definition of what a user group meeting could be, and for letting me be a part of it all.


Book Review - Squeezed: Rear-Ended by American Politics by J. C. Bourque

Category Book Review J. C. Bourque Squeezed: Rear-Ended by American Politics

Squeezed: Rear-Ended by American Politics

I generally steer clear of political books... mostly because I'm fed up with *both* sides.  Political humor is still OK, however.  And if both sides are being skewered, so much the better.  I was asked if I was interested in reading and reviewing Squeezed: Rear-Ended by American Politics by J. C. Bourque, and the premise was enough to get me hooked.  And the premise is?  Ultra-conservatives and ultra-liberals are both the same, in that they are convinced that they have all the answers, and *you* need to buy into their logic or else you're an uninformed idiot.  Those of us in the middle (the Middles) have just one thing to say to them... go away.  Of course, Bourque puts it much more bluntly and colorfully than I do, but the feelings are the same.

Bourque's style is what makes this a fun read. He's blunt, colorful, and funny.  The word "curmudgeon" would come close, but he doesn't appear to be old enough (yeah, I know there's no age qualification to be a curmudgeon... just work with me here).  He sees American politics as seriously flawed and/or damaged, and most of that comes from the fringe elements on both ends of the political spectrum.  They have a very black-and-white view of what is correct, and they expect everyone to agree with them. There is no room for moderation and compromise, and in order for them to win, the other side must lose.  There's no desire to discuss and learn from others, as they already have you stereotyped into their neat categories so you can be converted to the true view of how things are.  If you happen to be in the middle and you haven't made up your mind, *both* sides turn on you as you must be incapable of understanding the truth of the situation, and it's their job to make their agenda *your* agenda.  In reality, the Middles just want to be left alone to live life and deal with the multiple hues of grey that make up every issue that exists.  We don't believe that either side has been blessed with or found the one right answer to solve everything. You don't know us, you don't care to know us, we didn't ask to hear your biased message or talking points, so please forgive us if we tell you to get lost.

Bourque doesn't attempt to present his views with any degree of academic rigor.  Squeezed is a rant against the current political scene, and he knows it.  He doesn't pull punches, and there's decent chance he'll offend just about everyone at some point in the book.  But it's important to remember that he's not against people holding views based on however or whatever they choose to believe.  The request is that you recognize that *everyone* has the same freedoms (of speech, religion, etc.) that you do, and you need to understand that those freedoms aren't restricted to those who happen to agree with you.  Most of us don't want to hear your far-left/far-right rantings, so keep them to yourself.

I suppose you could make the point that by writing a book like this, Bourque is trying to convert people to his view much like the political extremists are.  In my opinion, it's different in that he's not trying to get someone to convert to a particular set of political beliefs.  He just wants people to understand that life is not made up of a series of for/against issues, so don't make it your goal to convert everyone.  You hold your view, I'll hold mine, and let's deal with the way things really are, instead of the way you want them to be divided up.

Also as an FYI... I'm assuming his "One More Thing" at the end is tongue-in-cheek.  If not, then it's WAY out there and would place him on the fringe of just about any "solution" I could ever think of.

If you're up for a entertaining political rant that doesn't seem to be covered in any other media outlet, Squeezed is worth reading.  If you want a carefully considered alternative to political extremism, this isn't it.  It's more like the scene from Network where people yell out their windows... "We're as mad as ****, and we're not going to take this anymore!"  Unfortunately, the people who need this message the most are the ones who will be most offended by it.

Obtained From: Publicist
Payment: Free


Book Review - The Developer's Code - What Real Programmers Do by Ka Wai Cheung

Category Book Review Ka Wai Cheung The Developer's Code - What Real Programmers Do
The Developer's Code

I like books that gather a number of essays and thoughts about technology (in this case, software development) and bundle them in a single volume so I can contemplate what it is I do as a profession.  The Developer's Code - What Real Programmers Do by Ka Wai Cheung (published by Pragmatic Bookshelf) fits that description perfectly.  I've often said that one or two gems from a book like this can make it an excellent buy.  For me, this one met and surpassed that criteria.

None of the essays here (52 in total) are technical in nature.  You won't learn a new way to code algorithms or do systems architecture.  Instead, they delve into mind-sets and concepts on how to think about the work and how it's done.  An example would be the first two essays in the section on metaphors in software development.  Since we've equated software construction to building construction, we tend to over-plan a system and nail everything down before we write a single line of code.  But in reality, code is flexible and changeable, whereas bricks and mortar can't be easily "fixed" once it's put down.  The metaphor of "construction" means that we may over-plan before writing code (think waterfall vs. agile), thereby limiting our productivity.  Metaphors aren't bad, but you do need to be careful that it doesn't inadvertently create boundaries that don't exist.

I personally found the section on teaching fascinating.  Specifically, "Lie to Simplify" put words behind a problem I fall prey to on far too many occasions.  When trying to teach someone a new skill or feature, I want to tell them absolutely everything... all the edge cases, the minor oddities, and the obscure errors where things don't work as advertised.  The problem is that the student doesn't even understand the basic concepts, much less the esoterica.  Rather than dump everything on them at once, just lie. Tell them how things work in 95% of the situations. Don't even mention the exceptions... until they've mastered the basics.  Once they know that knowledge, you can fill in the blanks.  That single essay right there will change the way I convey information to others.

Since everyone comes from different backgrounds and experience levels, everyone will have different reactions to The Developer's Code.  But I think I'm safe in saying it's well worth reading, and you should easily find the two or three gems that will make your purchase a wise investment in yourself.

Introduction: Who Is the 21st-Century Programmer?; Discovering the Lessons Firsthand; This Book Is About Us
Metaphor: Follow Metaphors with Care; Plan Enough, Then Build; Launch Is Just the First Release; The "Ivory Tower" Architect Is a Myth; Throw Away Your Old Code; Diversification Over Specialization; Metaphors Hide Better Ways of Working
Motivation: The Perks Are in the Work; Begin Where You Love to Begin; Be Imperfect; Stop Programming; Test Your Work First Thing in the Morning; Work Outside the Bedroom; First Impressions Are Just That; The Emotional Value of Launch; Find an Argument
Productivity: Just Say "No" to the Pet Project; Constrain All of Your Parameters; Cut the Detail Out of the Timeline; Improve Your Product in Two Ways Daily; Invest in a Good Work Environment; Keep a Personal To-Do List; Create "Off-Time" with Your Team; Work in Small, Autonomous Teams; Eliminate the "We" in Productivity
Complexity: Sniff Out Bad Complexity; The Simplicity Paradox; Complexity as a Game of Pickup Sticks; Keep Complexity Under the Surface; "Hard to Code" Might Mean "Hard to Use"; Know When to Refactor; Develop a Programming Cadence
Teaching: Teaching Is Unlike Coding; Beware the "Curse of Knowledge"; Teach with Obvious Examples; Lie to Simplify; Encourage Autonomous Thought
Clients: The Tough Client Is Ubiquitous; Demystify the Black Magic of Software; Define the Goals of Your Application; Be Enthusiastic and Opinionated; Be Forgiving and Personable; Value Is Much More Than Time; Respect Your Project Manager
Code: Write Code As a Last Resort; A Plug-in Happy Culture; Code Is the Ultimate Junior Developer; Separate Robot Work from Human Work; Generating Code at Its Core; The Case for Rolling Your Own
Pride: We Have a Marketing Problem; Lessons from the Cooking Industry

Obtained From: Publisher
Payment: Free


Book Review - Illusion by Frank Peretti

Category Book Review Frank Peretti Illusion
Illusion: A Novel

Frank Peretti is an interesting author who writes in a genre not overly populated... Christian supernatural thrillers.  Yeah, it's an odd combination, but Peretti makes it work, and very well at that.  Illusion is his latest novel, and I forgot how much I like getting lost in his books.  Illusion mixes magic and hi-tech science fiction with a touch of romance for a story that left me wondering how everything was going to play out.

The basic story line... Dane and Mandy Collins were the grand couple of magic.  Married for 40 years, they were deeply in love, and their skill with magic made them the must-see act wherever they played.  Their time together ends when a car accident critically injures both of them.  Mandy is unable to survive her massive burns, and Dane is at a complete loss as to what he should do with his life without her by his side.  He decides to buy a ranch that Mandy had her heart set on for their retirement, but it seems empty and incomplete without her.  On one of his forays into town, Dane runs into a young street magician who reminds him of a young version of Mandy.  He gives her a few tips on improving her act, and figures that's the end of it.  But one meeting turns into more, and Dane is torn.  He knows logically that she isn't Mandy, but everything she does reminds him of her. She also can do tricks and illusions that Dane can't explain, and soon she's packing the coffee house where she does her shows.  Dane decides to take her under his wing to see how far she can go.  The girl is also struggling with her situation, as she sat down under a tree at a state fair as an 18 year old in the 70's, and woke up under the same tree 40 years later, dressed in a hospital gown.  She was still 18, but what happened to the 40 years?  Is she really crazy? Does the hospital believe her story? Does *she* even believe her story?

Peretti does a great job in revealing just enough of the plot to keep you guessing as to what is really going on with Mandy's life and the special skills she seems to have now.  I was feeling Dane's pain as he was trying to figure out his life without his life-long partner, along with his confusion over who his young protege really is and whether he should be having feelings for her.  Mandy's confusion is also captured quite well on many levels.  How and what do you do when you seemingly lose 40 years on the calendar, and you have no way to prove your story to anyone?  Even worse, how do you explain and control the ability to control space and time when you don't even understand it yourself?

The Christian angle of the story is not as prominent as I seem to remember in past novels by Peretti.  The characters pray and go to church, but it's a natural extension of who they are, not a platform to preach for a number of pages.  There is a note from the author at the end that explains the symbolism he was trying to portray in the story, but that's about as overt as it gets.  

If you would normally stay away from a "Christian novel", I think you'd still end up liking Illusion.  If you're already a fan of Frank Peretti, then you'll be happy with his latest work.

Obtained From: Publicist
Payment: Free

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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