Month: December 2011

My Favourite Books for 2011

This was the year that I bought, sold, and then re-bought a Kindle.  I have an iPad, which I really love, but the Kindle is absolutely the best way to read books.  I’d say this  year I’ve started to read more books than ever before, but when you’re only paying $.99 – $2.99, I find that you take more chances, and give up more easily.

With that said, there were a handful of books this year that I really loved, and that make my “Best of the year” list. Continue Reading

This is My Next, Well What Exactly?

Yes, his name is really Al

2011 marked several significant milestones for me.

I turned 40, Charlene and I celebrated our 10th anniversary, December marks 5 years at Info-Tech for me, our basement, begun October 2009 will finally be fully finished

Also, my hands-on, day-to-day involvement with All New Comics ended.

It’s been six years since I joined up with Peter to form All New Comics, Canada’s Online Comics Superstore. In that time a ton has changed for me.

Char and I had two kids, moved from Ajax Ontario to London (where I’m 10 minutes away from two great comic shops,and a lunch time walk from two more), I have a new job with tons more responsibility, and I have less and less time for other stuff, all the while I’m trying to figure out what my next challenge will be.

Meanwhile the industry has changed, with stores closing, entire lines of comics being rebooted, and of course digital

We did some pretty super-cool things and I think it’s safe to say we changed the Canadian Comic Shop landscape in several ways, most significantly by servicing remote areas like Nunavut, where our lone customer there was 6 hours away from the nearest shop!

I am not gone, far from it. I’ve been transitioning with Pete since June, and he handles about 90% of stuff now. I will keep my hand in the marketing stuff (monthly updates, Facebook and Twitter stuff), and I’ll make sure the site’s code stays humming along, but the days of me responding to emails at 2am are likely over.

For our customers, nothing really changes, other than Pete responding to more emails than me. He’s handled most of the business for the last three years. You can expect the same quality of service, and the same awesome comics will still go out with the same attention to detail in the packing of orders.

What’s next for me? The New Ninjas and I are working on something cool that we hope to tell folks about soon, and I have an idea or two of my own up my sleeve, and of course Char says I should relax as well

I guess the best thing to say is stay tooned!

What Matters to Me at Work

This year I turned 40, and I looked at a lot of different things in my life.  One of them that I focused the most on was what was meaningful work to me.  I spend 8-12 hours a day working for someone who isn’t me, and in those 8-12 hours I need to do things that make me happy, otherwise I should probably go off and become an organic hybrid chioat (half chicken, half goat…egg bearing of course) farmer.

So I sat down and figured out what matters the most to me at work.

Don’t Do It Unless You Can Make It Awesome
I love Captain Pike’s line in the JJ Abrams Star Trek Movie. “You know, your father was Captain of a starship for 12 minutes, he saved the lives of 800 crew including your mother’s and yours. I dare you to do better.”

My goal is to make everything I touch better, no matter how small that improvement is. That should be your goal too. Everything you do should be better than it was before you touched it.

If you can’t do that, stop touching things.

What You Do Is More Important Than How You Do It!
The minute you have written that last line of code you will figure out a better way to do it. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve finished a project, looked back at a bunch of the CSS classes I declared, and said “Well whoever did that was obviously stupid.”, that whoever was me…and at this point…who cares? Get it done, refactor through iterations, and move on.

Just Get It Done!
Seriously, get it done. Don’t spend endless hours wondering what you could do, writing intricate specs, and trying to figure out exactly what user base will use exactly what feature.

Experience tells me that we’re wrong 90% of the time anyway.

Users don’t use your product the way you think they will. They’ll hack it into new configurations, and figure out new ways to ruin it. Just get it out there, refactor it through iterations, and move on.

Just Ship It Already!
It’s good enough. You have no idea what users are going to do to it anyway. Why are you optimizing the network code if you don’t even know that 5 people are going to use it? Get it out, and if 1000 people start using it, throw up a “Oops, you guys are kicking our asses” post and get busy refactoring it…then refactor it further through iterations, and move on.

Make sure you know who you’re coding for
This is where “As a (type of user) I need to (do something) so I can (gain a benefit).” comes into play, if you’re unsure of exactly what you’re doing, make sure you look hard a the user type, what they want to do, and what benefit they get out of it. If you’re missing any one of those you’re probably doing something that doesn’t need to be done.

A system is NOT a type of user
Don’t ever say “as a system I need to do something”, systems aren’t actors, and if you’ve identified a system level task, congratulations…you just discovered a task. Figure out who the person is who gains the benefit, and you’ve got a task.

Know when to throw out the rules
As a (type of user) I need to (do something) so I can (gain a benefit). It’s a great way to remember all of the actors and benefits, but frankly if “The publishing tool needs to PUBLISH A GORRAM BLOG POST WITHOUT BREAKING” gets the point across…WHO CARES (besides the Scrum Police ™).