Development Processes

2017 Tech Predictions

It’s that time of the year again, when I make predictions for the upcoming year. As has become my tradition now for nigh-on a decade, I will first go back over last years’ predictions, to see how well I called it (and keep me honest), then wax prophetic on what I think the new year has to offer us.

Intellectual Honesty

tl;dr At last night’s Seattle Languages meeting, I was reminded of what intellectually-honest debate does and does not look like; then, as part of the discussions and argument around the tragic deaths of several black men at the hands of police, I was presented with a link to a page entitled “Ten Signs of Intellectual Honesty”. This is good material.

It is too possible

tl;dr Once again I find myself in the position of needing to call BS on a blog post and deconstruct it: Yes, it is possible to be a good .NET developer, and here’s why.

The Value of Failure

tl;dr Celebrating success is always a welcome thing. But in a lot of ways, the people we should be celebrating are the ones who failed, and then learned from it. As a matter of fact, there’s a reasonable correlation to be drawn here—that those who are truly successful are the ones who failed first.

Microsoft meets Open Source

tl;dr Hadi Hariri has made a few observations regarding the churn we’re seeing in the Microsoft open-source space (around .NET Core and ASP.NET Core, among other things). But I don’t think this is a permanent state of affairs; what I think is going on is that Microsoft is finding that managing an open-source project is more than just owning the GitHub repo and just reviewing pull requests.

Logging Hours

tl;dr A recent DZone post lamented how logging hours makes the author “die a little inside each time”. I used to feel the same way. Then I grew up and got over it.

Practice, practice, practice

tl;dr Recently the Harvard Business Review ran an article on how readers could prepare for difficult business situations, using the analogy of coaches preparing their teams for different eventualities by simulating those eventualities on the practice field. There’s lessons to be learned here for both programming and speaking.

Reclaiming Design Patterns (20 Years Later)

tl;dr 20 years ago, the “Gang of Four” published the seminal work on design patterns. Written to the languages of its time (C++ and Smalltalk), and written using the design philosophies of the time (stressing inheritance, for example), it nevertheless spawned a huge “movement” within the industry. Which, as history has shown us, was already the hallmark of its doom—anything that has ever become a “movement” within this industry eventually disappoints and is burned at the public-relations stake when it fails to deliver on the overhyped promises that it never actually made. It’s time to go back, re-examine the 23 patterns (and, possibly, a few variants) with a fresh set of eyes, match them up against languages which have had 20 years to mature, and see what emerges. (Spoiler alert: all of the original 23 hold up pretty well, and there’s a lot of nuance that I think we missed the first time around.)

When Interviews Fail

tl;dr Peter Verhas asks a seemingly innocent question during a technical interview, and gets an answer that is not wrong, but doesn’t really fit. He then claims that “Sometimes I also meet candidates who not only simply do not know the answer but give the wrong answer. To know something wrong is worse than not knowing. Out of these very few even insists and tries to explain how I should have interpreted their answer. That is already a personality problem and definitely a no-go in an interview.” I claim that Peter is not only wrong, but that in addition to doing his company a complete disservice with this kind of interview, I personally would never want to work for a company that takes this attitude.

Technical Debt: A Definition

tl;dr A recent post on addresses the topic of technical debt; I had an intuitive disagreement with the thrust of the post, and wrote this as a way of clarifying my own thoughts on the matter. It raises some interesting questions about what technical debt actually is—and if we can’t define it, how can we possibly understand how to avoid it or remove it, as opposed to our current practice of using it as a “get-out-of-this-codebase-by-blowing-it-all-up” card?

2016 Tech Predictions

As has become my tradition now for nigh-on a decade, I will first go back over last years’ predictions, to see how well I called it (and keep me honest), then wax prophetic on what I think the new year has to offer us.

Peoples be talkin'...

"Ted, where the hell did you go?" I've been getting this message periodically over a variety of private channels, asking if I've abandoned my blog and/or if I'm ever going to come back to it. No, I haven't abandoned it, yes, I'm going to come back to it, but there's going to be a few changes to my online profile that I'll give you a heads-up around... if anybody cares. :-) First of all, as I mentioned before, LiveTheLook and I parted ways back at the end of 2013.

On Endings

A while back, I mentioned that I had co-founded a startup (LiveTheLook); I'm saddened to report that just after Halloween, my co-founder and I split up, and I'm no longer affiliated with the company except as an adviser and equity shareholder. There were a lot of reasons for the split, most notably that we had some different ideas on how to execute and how to spend the limited seed money we'd managed to acquire, but overall, we just weren't communicating well.

Seattle (and other) GiveCamps

Too often, geeks are called upon to leverage their technical expertise (which, to most non-technical peoples' perspective, is an all-encompassing uni-field, meaning if you are a DBA, you can fix a printer, and if you are an IT admin, you know how to create a cool HTML game) on behalf of their friends and family, often without much in the way of gratitude. But sometimes, you just gotta get your inner charitable self on, and what's a geek to do then?

On startups

Curious to know what Ted's been up to? Head on over to here and sign up. Yes, I'm a CTO of a bootstrap startup. (Emphasis on the "bootstrap" part of that--always looking for angel investors!) And no, we're not really in "stealth mode", I'll be happy to tell you what we're doing if you drop me an email directly; we're just trying to "manage the message", in startup lingo. We're only going to be under wraps for a few more weeks before the real site is live.

Programming Interviews

Apparently I have become something of a resource on programming interviews: I've had three people tell me they read the last two blog posts, one because his company is hiring and he wants his people to be doing interviews right, and two more expressing shock that I still get interviewed--which I don't really think is all that fair, more on that in a moment--and relief that it's not just them getting grilled on areas that they don't believe to be relevant to the job--and more on that in a moment, too.

More on the Programming Tests Saga

A couple of people had asked how the story with the company that triggered the "I Hate Programming Tests" post ended, so I figured I'd follow up with the rest of that story, and some thoughts. After handing in the disjoint-set solution I'd come up with, the VP pondered things for a bit, then decided to bring me in for an in-person interview loop with a half-dozen of the others that work there.

Programming Tests

It's official: I hate them. Don't get me wrong, I understand their use and the reasons why potential employers give them out. There's enough programmers in the world who aren't really skilled enough for the job (whatever that job may be) that it becomes necessary to offer some kind of litmus test that a potential job-seeker must pass. I get that. And it's not like all the programming tests in the world are created equal: some are pretty useful ways to demonstrate basic programming facilities, a la the FizzBuzz problem.

On OSS and Adoption

Are you one of those developers who can’t get his/her boss to let you download/prototype/use a Really Cool™ software package that happens to be open-source? Here’s a possible reason why. For no reason in particular, after installing Cygwin on an old laptop onto which I just dropped Win7, I decided to also drop MinGW32, Cygwin’s main competitor in the “UNIX-on-Windows” space. Wander off to the home page, grab an installer, read the “Getting Started” instructions, and….

"Craftsmanship", by another name

This blog, talking about the "1/10" developer as a sort of factored replacement for the "x10" developer, caught my eye over Twitter. Frankly, I'm not sure what to say about it, but there's a part of me that says I need to say something. I don't like the terminology "1/10 developer". As the commenters on the author's blog suggest, it implies a denigration of the individual in question. I don't think that was the author's intent, but intentions don't matter--results do.

Programming language "laws"

As is pretty typical for that site, Lambda the Ultimate has a great discussion on some insights that the creators of Mozart and Oz have come to, regarding the design of programming languages; I repeat the post here for convenience: Now that we are close to releasing Mozart 2 (a complete redesign of the Mozart system), I have been thinking about how best to summarize the lessons we learned about programming paradigms in CTM.

That Thing They Call "Unemployment"

TL;DR: I'm "unemployed", I'm looking to land a position as a director of development or similar kind of development management role; I'm ridiculously busy in the meantime. My employer, after having suffered the loss of close to a quarter of its consultant workforce on a single project when that project chose to "re-examine its current approach", has decided that (not surprisingly) given the blow to its current cash flow, it's a little expensive keeping an architectural consultant of my caliber on staff, particularly since it seems to me they don't appear to have the projects lined up for all these people to go.

"We Accept Pull Requests"

There are times when the industry in which I find myself does things that I just don't understand. Consider, for a moment, this blog by Jeff Handley, in which he essentially says that the phrase "We accept pull requests" is "cringe-inducing": Why do the words “we accept pull requests” have such a stigma? Why were they cringe-inducing when I spoke them? Because too many OSS projects use these words as an easy way to shut people up.

Java was not the first

Charlie Kindel blogs that he thinks James Gosling (and the rest of Sun) screwed us all with Java and it's "Write Once, Run Anywhere" mantra. It's catchy, but it's wrong. Like a lot of Charlie's blogs, he nails parts of this one squarely on the head: WORA was, is, and always will be, a fallacy. ... It is the “Write once…“ part that’s the most dangerous. We all wish the world was rainbows and unicorns, and “Write once…” implies that there is a world where you can actually write an app once and it will run on all devices.

Um... Security risk much?

While cruising through the Internet a few minute ago, I wandered across Meteor, which looks like a really cool tool/system/platform/whatever for building modern web applications. JavaScript on the front, JavaScript on the back, Mongo backing, it's definitely something worth looking into, IMHO. Thus emboldened, I decide to look at how to start playing with it, and lo and behold I discover that the instructions for installation are: curl | sh Um....

Last Thoughts on "Craftsmanship"

TL;DR Live craftsmanship, don't preach it. The creation of a label serves no purpose other than to disambiguate and distinguish. If we want to hold people accountable to some sort of "professionalism", then we have to define what that means. I found Uncle Bob's treatment of my blog heavy-handed and arrogant. I don't particularly want to debate this anymore; this is my last take on the subject. I will freely admit, I didn't want to do this.

More on "Craftsmanship"

TL;DR: To all those who dissented, you're right, but you're wrong. Craftsmanship is a noble meme, when it's something that somebody holds as a personal goal, but it's often coming across as a way to beat up and denigrate on others who don't choose to invest significant time and energy into programming. The Zen Masters didn't walk around the countryside, proclaiming "I am a Zen Master!" Wow. Apparently I touched a nerve.

On the Dark Side of "Craftsmanship"

I don't know Heather Arthur from Eve. Never met her, never read an article by her, seen a video she's in or shot, or seen her code. Matter of fact, I don't even know that she is a "she"--I'm just guessing from the name. But apparently she got quite an ugly reaction from a few folks when she open-sourced some code: So I went to see what people were saying about this project.

Tech Predictions, 2013

Once again, it's time for my annual prognostication and review of last year's efforts. For those of you who've been long-time readers, you know what this means, but for those two or three of you who haven't seen this before, let's set the rules: if I got a prediction right from last year, you take a drink, and if I didn't, you take a drink. (Best. Drinking game. EVAR!) Let's begin....

On Uniqueness, and Difference

In my teenage formative years, which (I will have to admit) occurred during the 80s, educators and other people deeply involved in the formation of young peoples' psyches laid great emphasis on building and enhancing our self-esteem. Self-esteem, in fact, seems to have been the cause and cure of every major problem suffered by any young person in the 80s; if you caved to peer pressure, it was because you lacked self-esteem.

On Knowledge

Back during the Bush-Jr Administration, Donald Rumsfeld drew quite a bit of fire for his discussion of knowledge, in which he said (loosely paraphrasing) "There are three kinds of knowledge: what you know you know, what you know you don't know, and what you don't know you don't know". Lots of Americans, particularly those who were not kindly disposed towards "Rummy" in the first place, took this to be canonical Washington doublespeak, and berated him for it.

Cloud legal

There's an interesting legal interpretation coming out of the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) around the Megaupload case, and the EFF has said this: "The government maintains that Mr. Goodwin lost his property rights in his data by storing it on a cloud computing service. Specifically, the government argues that both the contract between Megaupload and Mr. Goodwin (a standard cloud computing contract) and the contract between Megaupload and the server host, Carpathia (also a standard agreement), "likely limit any property interest he may have" in his data.

Vietnam... in Bulgarian

I received an email from Dimitar Teykiyski a few days ago, asking if he could translate the "Vietnam of Computer Science" essay into Bulgarian, and no sooner had I replied in the affirmative than he sent me the link to it. If you're Bulgarian, enjoy. I'll try to make a few moments to put the link to the translation directly on the original blog post itself, but it'll take a little bit--I have a few other things higher up in the priority queue.


As the calendar year comes to a close, it's time (it's well past time, in fact) that I comment publicly on my obvious absence from the No Fluff, Just Stuff tour. In January, when I emailed Jay Zimmerman, the organizer of the conference, to talk about topics for the coming year, I got no response. This is pretty typical Jay--he is notoriously difficult to reach over email, unless he has something he wants from you.

On Equality

Recently (over the last half-decade, so far as I know) there's been a concern about the numbers of women in the IT industry, and in particular the noticeable absence of women leaders and/or industry icons in the space. All of the popular languages (C, C++, Java, C#, Scala, Groovy, Ruby, you name it) have been invented by or are represented publicly by men. The industry speakers at conferences are nearly all men.

Just Say No to SSNs

Two things conspire to bring you this blog post. Of Contracts and Contracts First, a few months ago, I was asked to participate in an architectural review for a project being done for one of the states here in the US. It was a project dealing with some sensitive information (Child Welfare Services), and I was required to sign a document basically promising not to do anything bad with the data.

Is Programming Less Exciting Today?

As discriminatory as this is going to sound, this one is for the old-timers. If you started programming after the turn of the milennium, I don’t know if you’re going to be able to follow the trend of this post—not out of any serious deficiency on your part, hardly that. But I think this is something only the old-timers are going to identify with. (And thus, do I alienate probably 80% of my readership, but so be it.) Is it me, or is programming just less interesting today than it was two decades ago?

Tech Predictions, 2012 Edition

Well, friends, another year has come and gone, and it's time for me to put my crystal ball into place and see what the upcoming year has for us. But, of course, in the long-standing tradition of these predictions, I also need to put my spectacles on (I did turn 40 last year, after all) and have a look at how well I did in this same activity twelve months ago.

Changes, changes, changes

Many of you have undoubtedly noticed that my blogging has dropped off precipitously over the last half-year. The reason for that is multifold, ranging from the usual “I just don’t seem to have the time for it” rationale, up through the realization that I have a couple of regular (paid) columns (one with CoDe Magazine, one with MSDN) that consume a lot of my ideas that would otherwise go into the blog.

Managing Talks: An F#/Office Love Story (Part 1)

Those of you who’ve seen me present at conferences probably won’t be surprised by this, but I do a lot of conference talks. In fact, I’m doing an average of 10 or so talks at the NFJS shows alone. When you combine that with all the talks I’ve done over the past decade, it’s reached a point where maintaining them all has begun to approach the unmanageable. For example, when the publication of Professional F# 2.0 went final, I found myself going through slide decks trying to update all the “Credentials” slides to reflect the new publication date (and title, since it changed to Professional F# 2.0 fairly late in the game), and frankly, it’s becoming something of a pain in the ass.

Tech Predictions, 2011 Edition

Long-time readers of this blog know what’s coming next: it’s time for Ted to prognosticate on what the coming year of tech will bring us. But I believe strongly in accountability, even in my offered-up-for-free predictions, so one of the traditions of this space is to go back and revisit my predictions from this time last year. So, without further ado, let’s look back at Ted’s 2010 predictions, and see how things played out; 2010 predictions are prefixed with “THEN”, and my thoughts on my predictions are prefixed with “NOW”: For 2010, I predicted....

Thoughts on my first Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend came to Redmond this weekend, and as I write this it is all of three hours over. In the spirit of capturing post-mortem thoughts as quickly as possible, I thought I’d blog my reactions and thoughts from it, both as a reference for myself for the next one, and as a guide/warning/data point for others considering doing it. A few weeks ago, emails started crossing the Seattle Tech Startup mailing list about this thing called “Startup Weekend”.

VMWare help

Hey, anybody who’s got significant VMWare mojo, help out a bro? I’ve got a Win7 VM (one of many) that appears to be exhibiting weird disk behavior—the vmdk, a growable single-file VMDK, is almost precisely twice the used space. It’s a 120GB growable disk, and the Win7 guest reports about 35GB used, but the VMDK takes about 70GB on host disk. CHKDSK inside Windows says everything’s good, and the VMWare “Disk Cleanup” doesn’t change anything, either.

Architectural Katas

By now, the Twitter messages have spread, and the word is out: at Uberconf this year, I did a session ("Pragmatic Architecture"), which I've done at other venues before, but this time we made it into a 180-minute workshop instead of a 90-minute session, and the workshop included breaking the room up into small (10-ish, which was still a teensy bit too big) groups and giving each one an "architectural kata" to work on.

Emotional commitment colors everything

As a part of my program to learn how to use the Mac OS more effectively (mostly to counteract my lack of Mac-command-line kung fu, but partly to get Neal Ford off my back ;-) ), I set the home page in Firefox to point to the OSX Daily website. This morning, this particular page popped up as the "tip of the day", and a particular thing about it struck my fancy.

Code Kata: Compressing Lists

Code Katas are small, relatively simple exercises designed to give you a problem to try and solve. I like to use them as a way to get my feet wet and help write something more interesting than "Hello World" but less complicated than "The Internet's Next Killer App".   Rick Minerich mentioned this one on his blog already, but here is the original "problem"/challenge as it was presented to me and which I in turn shot to him over a Twitter DM:   I have a list, say something like [4, 4, 4, 4, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 5, 5], which consists of varying repetitions of integers.

10 Things To Improve Your Development Career

Cruising the Web late last night, I ran across "10 things you can do to advance your career as a developer", summarized below: Build a PC Participate in an online forum and help others Man the help desk Perform field service Perform DBA functions Perform all phases of the project lifecycle Recognize and learn the latest technologies Be an independent contractor Lead a project, supervise, or manage Seek additional education I agreed with some of them, I disagreed with others, and in general felt like they were a little too high-level to be of real use.

2010 Predictions, 2009 Predictions Revisited

Here we go again—another year, another set of predictions revisited and offered up for the next 12 months. And maybe, if I'm feeling really ambitious, I'll take that shot I thought about last year and try predicting for the decade. Without further ado, I'll go back and revisit, unedited, my predictions for 2009 ("THEN"), and pontificate on those subjects for 2010 before adding any new material/topics. Just for convenience, here's a link back to last years' predictions.

Book Review: Debug It! (Paul Butcher, Pragmatic Bookshelf)

Paul asked me to review this, his first book, and my comment to him was that he had a pretty high bar to match; being of the same "series" as Release It!, Mike Nygard's take on building software ready for production (and, in my repeatedly stated opinion, the most important-to-read book of the decade), Debug It! had some pretty impressive shoes to fill. Paul's comment was pretty predictable: "Thanks for keeping the pressure to a minimum." My copy arrived in the mail while I was at the NFJS show in Denver this past weekend, and with a certain amount of dread and excitement, I opened the envelope and sat down to read for a few minutes.

Haacked, but not content; agile still treats the disease

Phil Haack wrote a thoughtful, insightful and absolutely correct response to my earlier blog post. But he's still missing the point. The short version: Phil's right when he says, "Agile is less about managing the complexity of an application itself and more about managing the complexity of building an application." Agile is by far the best approach to take when building complex software. But that's not where I'm going with this.

SDWest, SDBestPractices, SDArch&Design: RIP, 1975 - 2009

This email crossed my Inbox last week while I was on the road: Due to the current economic situation, TechWeb has made the difficult decision to discontinue the Software Development events, including SD West, SD Best Practices and Architecture & Design World. We are grateful for your support during SD's twenty-four year history and are disappointed to see the events end. This really bums me out, because the SD shows were some of the best shows I’ve been to, particularly SD West, which always had a great cross-cutting collection of experts from all across the industry’s big technical areas: C++, Java, .NET, security, agile, and more.

As for Peer Review, Code Review?

Interesting little tidbit crossed my Inbox today... Only 8% members of the Scientific Research Society agreed that "peer review works well as it is". (Chubin and Hackett, 1990; p.192). "A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision and an analysis of the peer review system substantiate complaints about this fundamental aspect of scientific research." (Horrobin, 2001) Horrobin concludes that peer review "is a non-validated charade whose processes generate results little better than does chance."

Phishing attacks know no boundaries... or limits

People are used to the idea of phishing attacks showing up in their email, but in glowing testament to the creativity of potential attackers, Twitter recently has seen a rash of phishing attacks through Twitter's "direct messaging" feature. The attack plays out like this: someone on your Twitter followers list sends you a direct message saying, "hey! check out this funny blog about you... " with a hyperlink to a website, "" .

2009 Predictions, 2008 Predictions Revisited

It's once again that time of year, and in keeping with my tradition, I'll revisit the 2008 predictions to see how close I came before I start waxing prophetic on the coming year. (I'm thinking that maybe the next year--2010's edition--I should actually take a shot at predicting the next decade, but I'm not sure if I'd remember to go back and revisit it in 2020 to see how I did.

Ruminations on Women in IT

When I was in college, at the University of California, Davis, I lived in the International Relations building (D Building in the Tercero dorm area, for any other UCD alum out there), and got my first real glimpse of the feminist movement up front. It seemed like it was filled with militant, angry members of the female half of the species, who insisted that their gender was spelled "womyn", so that it wasn't somehow derived from "man" (wo-man, wo-men, get it?), who blamed most of the world's problems on the fact that men were running the show, and that therefore, because of my own gender, I was to share equally in the blame for its ills.

The Myth of Discovery

It amazes me how insular and inward-facing the software industry is. And how the "agile" movement is reaping the benefits of a very simple characteristic. For example, consider Jeff Palermo's essay on "The Myth of Self-Organizing Teams". Now, nothing against Jeff, or his post, per se, but it amazes me how our industry believes that they are somehow inventing new concepts, such as, in this case the "self-organizing team". Team dynamics have been a subject of study for decades, and anyone with a background in psychology, business, or sales has probably already been through much of the material on it.

Apparently I'm #25 on the Top 100 Blogs for Development Managers

The full list is here. It's a pretty prestigious group--and I'm totally floored that I'm there next to some pretty big names. In homage to Ms. Sally Fields, of so many years ago... "You like me, you really like me". Having somebody come up to me at a conference and tell me how much they like my blog is second on my list of "fun things to happen to me at a conference", right behind having somebody come up to me at a conference and tell me how much they like my blog, except for that one entry, where I said something totally ridiculous (and here's why) ....

An Announcement

For those of you who were at the Cinncinnati NFJS show, please continue on to the next blog entry in your reader--you've already heard this. For those of you who weren't, then allow me to make the announcement: Hi. My name's Ted Neward, and I am now a ThoughtWorker. After four months of discussions, interviews, more discussions and more interviews, I can finally say that ThoughtWorks and I have come to a meeting of the minds, and starting 3 September I will be a Principal Consultant at ThoughtWorks.

The Never-Ending Debate of Specialist v. Generalist

Another DZone newsletter crosses my Inbox, and again I feel compelled to comment. Not so much in the uber-aggressive style of my previous attempt, since I find myself more on the fence on this one, but because I think it's a worthwhile debate and worth calling out. The article in question is "5 Reasons Why You Don't Want A Jack-of-all-Trades Developer", by Rebecca Murphey. In it, she talks about the all-too-common want-ad description that appears on job sites and mailing lists: I've spent the last couple of weeks trolling Craigslist and have been shocked at the number of ads I've found that seem to be looking for an entire engineering team rolled up into a single person.

From the "Gosh, You Wanted Me to Quote You?" Department...

This comment deserves response: First of all, if you're quoting my post, blocking out my name, and attacking me behind my back by calling me "our intrepid troll", you could have shown the decency of linking back to my original post. Here it is, for those interested in the real discussion: Well, frankly, I didn't get your post from your blog, I got it from an email 'zine (as indicated by the comment "This crossed my Inbox..."), and I didn't really think that anybody would have any difficulty tracking down where it came from, at least in terms of the email blast that put it into my Inbox.

From the "You Must Be Trolling for Hits" Department...

Recently this little gem crossed my Inbox.... Professionalism = Knowledge First, Experience Last By J----- A----- Do you trust a doctor with diagnosing your mental problems if the doctor tells you he's got 20 years of experience? Do you still trust that doctor when he picks up his tools, and asks you to prepare for a lobotomy? Would you still be impressed if the doctor had 20 years of experience in carrying out lobotomies?

More on Paradise

A couple of people have commented on the previous entry, citing, essentially, that Google needs to do this to be "the best". I understand the argument completely: Google wants to attract the top talent, or retain the top talent, or at least entice the top talent, not to mention give them every reason to be horribly productive, so all of that extravagance is a justifiable--and some might argue necessary--expense. Thing is, I don't buy into that argument for a second.

Developer paradise?

Check out this video. No, go on, watch it. The rest of this won't make much sense until you do. Now that you've seen it, take a moment, do the "WOW" thing in your head, imagine how cool it would be to work there, all of it. Go on, I know you want to, I did too when I first saw it. Go ahead, take a moment; you'll be distracted until you do, and you'll miss the rest of the point of this blog entry, and then I'll be sad.


A couple of people have asked me over the last few weeks, so it's probably worth saying out loud: No, I don't work for a large company, so yes, I'm available for consulting and research projects. If you've got one of those burning questions like, "How would our company/project/department/whatever make use of JRuby-and-Rails, and what would the impact to the rest of the system be", or "Could using F# help us write applications faster", or "How would we best integrate Groovy into our application", or "How does the new Adobe Flex/AIR move help us build richer client apps", or "How do we improve the performance of our Java/.NET app", or other questions along those lines, drop me a line and let's talk.

The reason for conferences

People have sometimes asked me if it's really worth it to go to a conference these days, given that so much material is appearing online via blogs, webcasts, online publications and Google. I think the answer is an unqualified "yes" (what else would you expect from a guy who spends a significant part of his life speaking at conferences?), but not necessarily for the reasons you might think. A long time ago, Billy Hollis said something very profound to me: "Newbies go to conferences for the technical sessions.

Mort means productivity

Recently, a number of folks in the Java space have taken to openly ridiculing Microsoft's use of the "Mort" persona, latching on to the idea that Mort is somehow equivalent to "Visual Basic programmer", which is itself somehow equivalent to "stupid idiot programmer who doesn't understand what's going on and just clicks through the wizards". This would be a mischaracterization, one which I think Nikhilik's definition helps to clear up: Mort, the opportunistic developer, likes to create quick-working solutions for immediate problems and focuses on productivity and learn as needed.

The Fallacies Remain....

Just recently, I got this bit in an email from the Redmond Developer News ezine: TWO IF BY SEA In the course of just over a week starting on Jan. 30, a total of five undersea data cables linking Europe, Africa and the Middle East were damaged or disrupted. The first two cables to be lost link Europe with Egypt and terminate near the Port of Alexandria. Early speculation placed the blame on ship anchors that might have dragged across the sea floor during heavy weather.

Can Dynamic Languages Scale?

The recent "failure" of the Chandler PIM project generated the question, "Can Dynamic Languages Scale?" on TheServerSide, and, as is all too typical these days, it turned into a "You suck"/"No you suck" flamefest between a couple of posters to the site. I now make the perhaps vain attempt to address the question meaningfully. What do you mean by "scale"? There's an implicit problem with using the word "scale" here, in that we can think of a language scaling in one of two very orthogonal directions: Size of project, as in lines-of-code (LOC) Capacity handling, as in "it needs to scale to 100,000 requests per second" Part of the problem I think that appears on the TSS thread is that the posters never really clearly delineate the differences between these two.

My Open Wireless Network

People visiting my house have commented from time to time on the fact that at my house, there's no WEP key or WPA password to get on the network; in fact, if you were to park your car in my driveway and open up your notebook, you can jump onto the network and start browsing away. For years, I've always shrugged and said, "If I can't spot you sitting in my driveway, you deserve the opportunity to attack my network."

I Refused to be Terrorized

Bruce Schneier has a great blog post on this. I'm joining the movement, with this declaration: I am not afraid of terrorism, and I want you to stop being afraid on my behalf. Please start scaling back the official government war on terror. Please replace it with a smaller, more focused anti-terrorist police effort in keeping with the rule of law. Please stop overreacting. I understand that it will not be possible to stop all terrorist acts.

Let the JDK Hacking Begin...

OpenJDK, the open-source JDK 7 release (and no, I don’t know if there’s any practical difference between the two) has officially opened for business with the promotion of the “real, live” Mercurial repositories. These are the real deal, the same repositories that Sun employees will be working on as they modify the code… which means, in all reality, that there is a very tiny window of opportunity for you to check out code between changesets that are dependent on one another due to the way they’ve got the forest set up–if you get weird build errors, try re-fetching… but more on that later.

Quotes on writing

This is, without a doubt, the most accurate quote ever about the "fun" of writing a book: Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.

A Dozen Levels of Done

Michael Nygard (author of the great book Release It!), writes that "[his] definition of 'done' continues to expand". Currently, his definition reads: A feature is not "done" until all of the following can be said about it: All unit tests are green. The code is as simple as it can be. It communicates clearly. It compiles in the automated build from a clean checkout. It has passed unit, functional, integration, stress, longevity, load, and resilience testing.

Anybody know of a good WebDAV client library ...

... for Ruby, or PowerShell/.NET? I'm looking for something to make it easier to use WebDAV from a shell scripting language on Windows; Ruby and PowerShell are the two that come to mind as the easiest to use on Windows. For some reason, Google doesn't yield much by way of results, and I've got to believe there's better WebDAV support out there than what I'm finding. (Yes, I could write one, but why bother, if one is out there that already exists?

Welcome to the Shitty Code Support Group

"Hi. My name's Ted, and I write shitty code." With this opening, a group of us earlier this year opened a panel (back in March, as I recall) at the No Fluff Just Stuff conference in Minneapolis. Neal Ford started the idea, whispering it to me as we sat down for the panel, and I immediately followed his opening statement in the same vein. Poor Charles Nutter, who was new to the tour, didn't get the whispered-down-the-line instruction, and tried valiantly to recover the panel's apparent collective discard of dignity--"Hi, I'm Charles, and I write Ruby code"--to no avail.

A Book Every Developer Must Read

This is not a title I convey lightly, but Michael Nygard's Release It! deserves the honor. It's the first book I've ever seen that addresses the issues of building software that's Production-friendly and sysadmin-approachable. He describes a series of antipatterns describing a variety of software failures, and offers up a series of solutions (patterns, if you will) to building software systems designed to combat said failures. From the back cover: Every website project is really an enterprise integration project: the stakes are high and the projects complex.

Hard Questions About Architects

I get e-mail from blog readers, and this one--literally--stopped me in my tracks as I was reading. Rather than interpret, I'll just quote (with permission) the e-mail and respond afterwards Hi Ted, I had a job interview last Friday which I wanted to share with you. It was for a “Solutions Architect” role with a large Airline here in New Zealand. I had a preliminary interview with the head Architect which went extremely well, and I was called in a few days later for an interview with the other three guys on the Architecture team.

The First Strategy: Declare War on Your Enemies (The Polarity Strategy)

Software is endless battle and conflict, and you cannot develop effectively unless you can identify the enemies of your project. Obstacles are subtle and evasive, sometimes appearing to be strengths and not distractions. You need clarity. Learn to smoke out your obstacles, to spot them by the signs and patterns that reveal hostility and opposition to your success. Then, once you have them in your sights, have your team declare war.

Yellow Journalism Meets The Web... again...

For those who aren't familiar with the term, "yellow journalism" was a moniker applied to journalism (newspapers, at the time) articles that were written with little attention to the facts, and maximum attention to gathering attention and selling newspapers. Articles were sensationalist, highly incorrect or unvalidated, seeking to draw at the emotional strings the readers would fear or want pulled. Popular at the turn of the last century, perhaps the most notable example of yellow journalism was the sinking of the Maine, a US battleship that exploded in harbor while visiting Cuba (then, ironically, a very US-friendly place).

The Strategies of Software Development

At a software conference not too long ago, I was asked what book I was currently reading that I'd recommend, and I responded, "Robert Greene's The 33 Strategies of War". When asked why I'd recommend this, the response was pretty simple: "Because I believe that there's more parallels to what we do in military history than in constructing buildings." Greene's book is an attempt at a distillation of what all the most successful generals and military leaders throughout history used to make them so successful.

Would you still love AJAX if you knew it was insecure?

From Bruce Schneier's latest Crypto-Gram: JavaScript Hijacking JavaScript hijacking is a new type of eavesdropping attack against Ajax-style Web applications.  I'm pretty sure it's the first type of attack that specifically targets Ajax code.  The attack is possible because Web browsers don't protect JavaScript the same way they protect HTML; if a Web application transfers confidential data using messages written in JavaScript, in some cases the messages can be read by an attacker.


Frank Kelly posted some good ideas on his entry, “Java: Are we worrying about the wrong things?”, but more interestingly, he suggested (implicitly) a new format for weighing in on trends and such, his “Important/Not-so-important” style. For example, NOT SO IMPORTANT: Web 2.0IMPORTANT: Giving users a good, solid user experience. Web 2.0 doesn’t make sites better by itself - it provides powerful technologies but it’s no silver bullet. There are so many terrible web sites out there with issues such as- Too much content / too cluttered Too heavy for the many folks still on dial-up- Inconsistent labeling- etc.

More on Ethics

While traveling not too long ago, I saw a great piece on ethics, and wished I’d kept the silly magazine (I couldn’t remember which one) because it was just a really good summation of how to live the ethical life. While wandering around the Web with Google tonight, I found it (scroll down a bit, to after the bits on Prohibition and Laughable Laws); in summary, the author advocates a life around five basic points: Do no harm Make things better Respect others Be fair Be loving Seems pretty simple, no?

Programming Promises (or, the Professional Programmer's Hippocratic Oath)

Michael.NET, apparently inspired by my “Check Your Politics At The Door” post, and equally peeved at another post on, hit a note of pure inspiration when he created his list of “Programming Promises”, which I repeat below: I promise to get the job done. I promise to use whatever tools I need to, regardless of politics. I promise to listen to the Closed Source and Open Source zealots equally, and then dismiss them.

The Root of All Evil

At a No Fluff Just Stuff conference not that long ago, Brian Goetz and I were hosting a BOF on "Java Internals" (I think it was), and he tossed off a one-liner that just floored me; I forget the exact phrasology, but it went something like: Remember that part about premature optimization being the root of all evil? He was referring to programmer career lifecycle, not software development lifecycle. ... and the more I thought about it, the more I think Brian was absolutely right.

A Time for a Change

I've had The Blog Ride up for almost two years now, and it seems the latest fad to change your blog title to match whatever your particular focus is at the moment. Given my tech predictions for 2007, and how I believe that interoperability is going to become a Big Deal (well, I guess in one sense it was already, but now I think it's going to become a Bigger Deal), and that hey, this is my schtick anyway, I've decided to rename the blog from "The Blog Ride" (which was kinda a lame name to begin with) to ...

Why programmers shouldn't fear offshoring

Recently, while engaging in my other passion (international relations), I was reading the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, and ran across an interesting essay regarding the increasing outsourcing--or, the term they introduce which I prefer in this case, "offshoring"--of technical work, and I found some interesting analysis there that I think solidifies why I think programmers shouldn't fear offshoring, but instead embrace it and ride the wave to a better life for both us and consumers.

Check it out...

The new home page is alive and kicking…

Don't fall prey to the latest social engineering attack

My father, whom I've often used (somewhat disparagingly...) as an example of the classic "power user", meaning "he-thinks-he-knows-what-he's-doing-but-usually-ends-up-needing-me-to-fix-his-computer-afterwards" (sorry Dad, but it's true...), often forwards me emails that turn out to be one hoax or another. This time, though, he found a winner--he sent me this article, warning against the latest caller identity scam: this time, they call claiming to be clerks of the local court, threatening that because the victim hasn't reported in for jury duty, arrest warrants have been issued.

2006 Tech Predictions

In keeping with the tradition, I'm suggesting the following will take place for 2006: The hype surrounding Ajax will slowly fade, as people come to realize that there's really nothing new here, just that DHTML is cool again. As Dion points out, Ajax will become a toolbox that you use in web development without thinking that "I am doing Ajax". Just as we don't think about "doing HTML" vs "doing DOM".

Porting legacy code

Matt Davey poses an interesting question: The problem: C++ Corba legacy codebase (5+ years old, 1 million lines) No unit tests Little test data Limited knowledge transfer from the original development team. A flake environment to run the application in. The requirement: Port the C++ result accumulation and session management code to Java Do you: Write C+ unit tests to understand the current system, then write Java equivalent code using TDD Write Java tests using TDD based on your understanding of the C++ code Hope you understand the C++ code, and JFDI in Java Give up and go home Get the original development team to do the work Ah, I love the smell of legacy code in the morning.

No, John, software really *does* evolve

John Haren, of, recently blogged about something I feel pretty strongly about: There’s a common trope in CS education that goes something like this: “All software evolves, so be prepared for it.” Far be it from me to imply that one shouldn’t be able to respond to change; that’s not my intention. But the idea expressed above contains a flaw: software does not evolve. Duh, John… everyone knows that software changes.

Best practices, redux

Jared Richardson took issue with my assertion that there’s no such thing as best practices, stating that, in essence, it’s not kosher for me to deny existence of something that I have to define: They said “There are no best practices” and then they had to define the term… but they defined it wrong! A best practice isn’t a required practice or a universally dominant practice. It’s just one of the best ones.