Updated: 9/22/2002; 10:40:16 PM

The FuzzyBlog!
Marketing 101. Consulting 101. PHP Consulting. Random geeky stuff. I Blog Therefore I Am.

Friday, May 17, 2002

Star Wars Update, the Speed of Google and How a Downloadable Star Wars Just Doesn't Matter

I just had a strange IM session about Star Wars.  Last Saturday's essay / expose on finding it online has apparently already been indexed by Google (Go Google!  Go Google!).  Anyway, this random IM pops up and I did what we all do -- accepted it.  It turned out to be a 16 year old web site hacker in Southern California telling me:

  • Google found my article for him and thanks for the content and the weblog
  • Did I know where it was?
  • It does actually exist!  He said that a friend had downloaded and a "Cool CAD" teacher had let them project a few minutes of it onto the wall with the lcd projector

We chatted for a bit (blogs make strange bedfellows as they say).  He then made these comments to me:

wtrzzzz: on ur website, u said that you found the full movie from news.com?
fuzzygroup: No.
fuzzygroup: I found the knowledge of it and urls to places it might be from news.com
wtrzzzz: omg lol, I was searching for it because I misread ur website
wtrzzzz: I feel the same way as you do, I am going to pay to go see it, and probably buy the dvd when it comes out.
wtrzzzz: They aren't loosing any money by me having the movie
fuzzygroup: They aren't at all.
fuzzygroup: How did you find my site with that article?
wtrzzzz: I searched for (smr)Star Wars
wtrzzzz: because my download was corrupt
fuzzygroup: Ah... What search engine?
wtrzzzz: google
wtrzzzz: :-)
wtrzzzz: the only
fuzzygroup: lol.
fuzzygroup: What was your search phrase?
wtrzzzz: "(smr)Star Wars"

Pretty interesting, huh?  And, when the moment of truth drew near:

wtrzzzz: gahhhhhhh back to 22 kb/s
fuzzygroup: lol.
wtrzzzz: .3 mb to go
wtrzzzz: the moment of truth awaits me
wtrzzzz: DONE!
fuzzygroup: dum dum dum
wtrzzzz: DUDE!
fuzzygroup: lol

I'm not quite sure where people are finding these near mythical copies of Star Wars to download but they are a hell of a lot harder to find than the media makes them out.  This kid had quite a hacker feel to him and, lord knows, I am a professional search geek.  This is by no means the problem that Hollywood wants you to believe.

10:07:59 PM  Google It!  comment []   IM Me About This  

2:22 pm without a Rant.  It's Time: RadView -- You're Dumb Not Twice but Thrice

Like most of us I am on tons of announcement lists for companies I'm no longer involved with.  I don't get bothered by spam anymore but I periodically do look at it.  I just got an email from RADVIEW-NEWS-L@LISTSERV.RADVIEW.COM.  It's in either Spanish or Italian.  It's not from Radview.  They're trying to sell me motiviational seminars.  (The whole email is a story).

Here's why I am bloody well ripped right now:

  1. Strike 1: Run your list server with little to no security.
  2. Strike 2: The unsubscribe link is broken!  Here is the message:

    Error - invalid parameter
    An invalid parameter was passed to the CGI function. Please report this error to the webmaster and make sure to specify the full URL that led to this message.
    "  Here's the link:

  3. Here's the company description.  It's amusing.
    "Only RadView provides software testing tools that feature JavaScript test-agenda creation for performance testing, load testing, and functional testing of website applications. Throughout the web application development lifecycle, the seamless integration between RadView's performance testing / load testing products (WebLOAD and WebRM) and functional testing product (WebFT) provides you with the necessary tools to make certain your web application is scalable and robust. "

So, let's play with this a little bit.

  1. Every single systems administrator knows that security is an issue.  Particularly with respect to mail and customer email addresses.  I wonder how many thousands got spammed by this?  1K?  2K? 10K?
  2. Every single book on email marketing and permission marketing stresses that the customer has to be able to opt out at any point.  This brings us to point 3.
  3. "Physician Heal Thyself".  This is a company who sells website testing tools and their own website is broken!!!  Do you use your own product?  Are you just dumb?

I really don't think I'm overreacting on this one.  This is just pathetic.  I don't know about you but I'd avoid their tools like the bloody plague.  Heck, the whole company.

2:41:18 PM  Google It!  comment []   IM Me About This  

This Sounds Cool: ActiveWords

I just made a trip off to Garbo.  And I saw that Ernie's linking to my story on Secrets of a High Volume Blogger (wow! that sounds embarrassing -- I think we can sell that on an infomercial).  He's also got a good suggestion: ActiveWords.  This sounds cool.  Ernie also makes a great point: We spend too much time with our computers going from point A to point B and how ActiveWords fixes this.  I haven't tried it yet but I suspect I will.  And, not to be too self referential, but he also points out that the support for ActiveWords is outstanding.  To quote: You have to try it!  It's free for 30 days and the tech support is incredible.  You can E-mail them with questions and they'll get right back to you.  This is exactly the point on support I made in my essay on Why People Don't Register Software.  Even during an eval period, support matters.

8:23:13 AM  Google It!  comment []   IM Me About This  

Responses to "Calling All Programmers: Damn It My Time is Valuable Too"

There's nothing like both weblog comments and emails to make you realize that you struck a nerve.  My article on programmers and their often inability / refusal to / lack of interest in testing their own code generated quite a few responses and I thought I'd air them publicly albeit without attribution (don't want to embarass anyone here).

From one commercial software developer that I've known for years and years and respect tremendously:

Lots of writers say, "I can't edit my own work." Revise, yes. Rewrite, yes. But there are some things that simply require a second pair of eyes, and some things that require a different set of skills.

I sympathize with your complaint, but I think testing your own code is very much like editing your own writing. (The scenario you describe, where the programmer is certain he's fixed a bug and it's obviously not fixed, happens all the time for reasons that have nothing to do with laziness or stupidity)

Besides, from a management perspective, there are only so many people who can work on your code -- you need programmers, you need them trained in your tools, you need them to be familiar with your code and your coding standards. Adding new programmers to speed things up is expensive and often impossible. Adding new testers to find problems is usually very feasible -- you can raid sales or doc teams idled because you're behind schedule if you can't find anything else.

My response:

I see and hear your points but... 

  1. I've been a writer and I do agree that editing your own stuff is hard.  And there are points where another pair of eyes are required but that really isn't what I said in my article.  What I was complaining about was not the deep, intricate testing that a real tester does but rather the simple, shallow testing you do before letting something out in the world.  My suspicion is that your skills are so good (no pandering here) is that you've just never done this and aren't familiar with it.  I've run large development groups (up to 45 people) and this is all too common. 
  2. Here's an illustration: I had an ASP programmer who worked for me, who with 1 HTML edit, right before he left for the day, managed to omit a single ' on an include file that referenced the db variables.  Poof!  Like magic, our test system for a large scale website went down.  Sure, with perfect version control you just back this out.  But what this one person did was take down our test environment that 20+ other engineers were relying on.  Debugging, figuring out what change was made and then restoring / changing it back took approximately 45 minutes during which time most of the other staff was idle as we were in release mode and we needed this system. 

    So, doing the math, 45 minutes * 20 people = 900 minutes or 15 hours total time.  Assuming an hourly cost to the company of $52.5 / hour (that's the fully loaded cost of an engineer making 70K per year), this translates to $787.50.  But that's not all.  It also takes most engineers some length of time to get back in sync with their code mentally, etc.  Assuming 30 minutes per engineer (for me it's about 45 minutes once I'm distracted to get back into the groove, for other people it can be longer or quicker), that's another 10 hours of lost lost time or $525.  So, the total cost to the company was $1,312.50 -- because this utter bozo was either too lazy, too stupid or too arrogant to test a simple change.  If you multiply this across the number of developers in a large scale release, the results are less than pleasant.  And I didn't even try to add up the cumulative costs of these delays costing you time to market.  
  3. I ran your editing comment past a professional tech writer friend and his comment was "I edit my own writing all the time".  He's got significantly better writing skills than me so I'm going to defer to his remark.  Editing your own stuff is hard but it's not impossible.  To me it's a sign of professionalism -- getting your content (code or writing) as good as possible before it goes out into the world.  And, yes, the fact that the preceding sentence is poorly written was left intentionally as ironic humor.
  4. I totally agree that things like this can happen because of reasons other than laziness or stupidity.  I'm sure how much I care though.  That's harsh, no ifs ands or buts.  None at all.  I've seen too  much of this over the years and lost too much of my time to have a lot of sympathy.  To me, these testing for these kind of simple errors is sort of like spell checking your work before you publish something -- it's just something you do.  If you make changes, you check it.  To me it's just that simple.  I could also point out that there's a whole new programming methodology, XP, that brings testing much more into the development process.
  5. You're 100% right about adding new programmers being a bad thing.  And I too have stolen from doc, sales, janitorial, administration and others to get stuff tested.  But isn't that really for kind of an overall testing, not the type of shallow, simple stuff I describe?

Whew!  This turned out a lot longer than I expected.  Hope it wasn't boring or too off topic.  And, to be really honest, I've made these mistakes too.  We all have.  We still need to do better in this area.

8:02:03 AM  Google It!  comment []   IM Me About This  

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Scott/Male/31-35. Lives in United States/MA/Boston/Nahant, speaks English. Spends 80% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes Open Source / PHP/Cooking.

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