Release Something

One (of the seemingly many) things I do for, you know, work is web development. From time to time I'm asked for a portfolio of what I do. Here's a little sampling:

  • Web Scraping/Data Mining (Technical sounding, it just means a computer program that collects data from websites by 'reading' the page.)
  • eCommerce Order System (Did you know you can order from pizza hut online? I had nothing to do with that eCommerce site.)
  • Product/Inventory Management Back-end (Let's say you had a site your company used to track costs, markup prices, and generate reports. And let's say I fixed it.)

You see the problem with that list? It's hard to show off that stuff. There are some clients I can't even say I worked for (gasp, maybe I can't even say I can't say that), other stuff is just never going to be publicly visible (yeah, you're not going to be able to play around with some in-house inventory control system, sorry).

So what's a developer to do?

Release something.

Call it a slightly late new year's resolution. Or don't.

Here's the deal. I'm gonna try to release some kind of technology thingy (usually some kind of internet technology thingy) every week.

So there.

No, it may not be something new each week. Maybe just rolling out a new feature to an existing thingy, but I'll try to make it at least interesting. And maybe even useful. And we'll just see how many weeks I miss. 'cause I will miss some. 

Beat you to that one Naysayers. Yeah, you know who you are.

So what's going to kick off this little party? If you'd been paying attention on Twitter you would know. But you were Facebooking weren't you? See, that's what happens.

Speaking of Twitter, you should check out GroupCall. Just a little app that lets you host a conference call with your friends. The host and unmute/mute people, so when someone gets out of hand... Really, it's setup as less of a mob conversation, and more of a 'broadcast' tool. One speaker many listeners. An ideal use would be Q&A or instructional sessions - questions asked via Twitter and answered over the call by one or two people.

It's still in the 'alpha' stages. Or is it 'preview'? Not sure anymore. Either way it's defintly not beta. Because beta just means "we haven't figured out how or if we're going to charge for this yet". And I've already figured that out. There will be a charge. 

But in the rush to release something I didn't have a chance to implement a payment system. So it's free now, until my money runs out. Or I start charging. We'll see which happens first.

Bet you can't wait until next week now.

Tim Lytle [01/27/10 23:37:32] | 7 Comments | Point

Lost in the Code

While reading up on schema-less databases I ran across this example code:

$jack = Dbo::findOne('LostPerson', array('name' => 'Jack'));
$jack->{"skills.surgery"} = 8;
$jack->{"skills.leadership"} = 3;
echo "Jack is a " . $jack->{"skills.surgery"} . 
     " at surgery...\n";
echo "... but a " . $jack->skills['leadership'] . 
     " at leadership.\n";  

If my code were more like that, maybe some people would actually read the 'boring' posts.

Tim Lytle [01/03/10 15:29:29] | 0 Comments | Point

When An Angel Speaks

Now that we've reached January, here's one look at three people central to the Christmas story, and how they responded to God's plan. Something to think about as a new year rolls around.

Reputation

Zacharias - Righteous Before God (Luke 1:5-6)

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

Mary - Highly Favoured (Luke 1:28)

To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Joseph - A Just Man (Matt 1:19)

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily

All three believe that God was able to save them from the eternal consequences of sin. The were righteous, favoured, and just - certainly they were Old Testament saints trusting in the promised Messiah for Salvation. But each had a different reaction to the message the Angel brought.

Reaction

Zacharias - Disbelief (Luke 1:18)

And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.

While Zacharias believed that God could save him in a miraculous way, he doubted God could use him in a miraculous way. He also doubted God could use those around him to accomplish His will.

Mary - Request (Luke 1:34)

Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

Unlike Zacharias' response, Mary's question is 'how will this be' not 'how can I believe you'. She believed that God could use her in a miraculous way - she just wanted to be sure she understood it all correctly. 

Acceptance (Luke 1:38)

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Once her question was answered, she shows her belief that God would use her to accomplish something great.

Joseph - Belief (Matt 1:38)

Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:

Joseph's response was belief. Not just that God could use his life to accomplish His will, but that God could use the lives of those he knew closely, in spite of how things may appear, in a miraculous way.

As we face a new year, remember that the same God that saved us is most certainly able to use us. And that those around us - who we know so well, who do things differently then we would, with flaws we are so very aware of - can, and will, be used by God. Regardless of how the circumstances may seem to us. 

Tim Lytle [01/01/10 10:45:11] | 0 Comments | Point

Find the Color

From this SO question, I wrote this little code sample (which I would have embedded, but it kills the page HTML for some reason).

So if you ever need to find the average color of an image, or an image's border - you can.

Tim Lytle [11/17/09 22:48:48] | 0 Comments | Point

The Day Job

Gotta get back to more blogging [but twitter is so simple, ya know?]. Until then here's an excerpt from my guest post at the oDesk blog about how it's possible to compete in a job market where some contractors are bidding $3 an hour. Find the full article on oDesk.

Understand that you’re not going to get – or even be considered for – some jobs. Some buyers are looking for the lowest bid – and for some jobs that is fine. Other buyers won’t be able to meet your rates, which may very well mean they can’t afford what they say they want. Don’t let a candidacy that ends with ‘rate too high’ shake you. Just as the buyer limits their potential providers by the constraints of their budget, your rate limits your potential jobs – and that’s a good thing. It helps you weed out the jobs that aren’t as valuable as the service you provide.

Don’t let a low average bid affect your rate. oDesk recently changed how much information you are able to see about other candidates when you visit a job posting, but you’ll still see how many people have applied to that job and the average bid. Don’t use that to set your rate, though. Your rate should be determined by the value of your work, your skillset, your experience, and many other factors. It shouldn’t determine the way others value their work, their skillset, or their experience. In the same way, remember that the kind of provider a buyer is looking for – and the budget they have – isn’t tied to the average bid amount.

Forget where you live. If the only justification for your rate being higher than other providers is that “it’s more expensive where I live”, then you need to find a job in an office near your house. It doesn’t matter what you think of tariffs and protectionism, oDesk is a global marketplace. You’re competing with providers in different countries, as well as different economic areas in a single country. Your rate shouldn’t be determined by the cost of your mortgage, or the price of your dinner, it should be determined by what your work is worth.

There’s nothing wrong with starting slow. When you’re starting out, it may take some time to figure out what your work is worth. To get your first few jobs, you may need to bid lower than what you want to be making in the long term. Then, once you gain experience and reputation on oDesk, you can increase your rates. While you shouldn’t let the rates of others affect what you set as your own rate, you do have to be aware of what the market will accept. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be competitive to the entire oDesk market, just enough to provide the amount of work you want. If you have a few jobs in progress, it may be a good time to increase your rates, start bidding jobs, and see if you can be successful with a higher rate.

Focus on the right jobs. Things like a good cover letter, examples of work, certifications, and oDesk groups can make you stand out from other providers. But after a while you get a feel for what jobs best fit your profile of skills and experience. Some jobs don’t require the amount of experience you have, some jobs aren’t the kind of work you find yourself getting hired to do. If you really want to stand out as the right provider for a job – focus on the type of job that consistently results in positive feedback.

Tim Lytle [11/04/09 19:16:15] | 0 Comments | Point

Anything Is Possible

File this under impossible requirements:

We require up to 2 people with between 3 and 5 years of Zend Framework coding experience.
First, gotta say - love the 'up to' part. Also known as 1 or 2. But the best part is the 3 to 5 years experience requirement. It's great because the Zend Framework released the preview in April of '06, the beta in March of '07, and the first release in June of '07.

Now, how does 3 to 5 years fit into that?

What's next - 'must have 2 years real world experience with Windows 7'?

Tim Lytle [10/11/09 14:51:45] | 9 Comments | Point

'Talk Show'

Yeah, it's old news now, but in case you missed it, here's Rush and The Jay Leno Show. It's great to here an actually intellectual discussion on this kind of TV show. You know, one that doesn't should something like, "Yeah, like the planet needs to be saved, and like since we're like actors and stuff, like famous, we need to live up to like ourselves and do something about it."

Tim Lytle [09/27/09 22:43:29] | 6 Comments | Point

Free

From XKCD

And all my PHP code is gluten free. The programmer on the other hand...

Tim Lytle [09/25/09 00:24:43] | 0 Comments | Point

Fall Flyer

Tim Lytle [09/17/09 22:11:19] | 0 Comments | Point

Myth-Buster

While the outburst from Joe Wilson (really, what is it about people names Joe opposing Candidate and now President Obama) is getting the most attention - I think the most outrageous thing is the way these 'myths' are 'debunked'. Watch:

All you need to do is say it isn't true, and NBC puts another myth in the debunked column. Is your free browser toolbar labeled 'spyware'? Just debunk in - "No, it's not spyware". Apparently that's good enough. From now on MythBusters will simply read a myth, say it's not true, and declare it 'busted'. Snopes is no longer needed, just reply with, "that's a myth". And when Dick Cheney is grilled about the CIA's techniques, he'll just look sternly at the questioner and it will be auto-debunked.

Or maybe that's not the way it works, at least over here in reality.

Tim Lytle [09/10/09 11:21:04] | 0 Comments | Point