Personal

Landis Doping?

Oh hell…I hope not.  Right now the story from ESPN is that his first sample tested positive for testosterone.  They’re currently doing a test on his second sample.


As a cycling fan, this might be the straw that breaks the camels back for me.  When I heard Basso and Ullrich, and others, were denied their entry into the Tour on another doping scandle I thew up my arms.  I actually only watched the last few stages this year, where in past years I would’ve watched or listened to most of the stages.  There is just way too much of this going on for the sport to be reputable.


The main question I would have is who is not being reputable.  Either the International Cycling Union is really screwed up and/or their tests are just not realistic, or the athletes are being complete idiots and trying to cheat as much as possible.  Or both, I guess.  Hell, the nine that were kicked out of the Tour before it even started didn’t even fail a test…they were just associated with the wrong doctor!  They really need to get their act together over there.

Personal

The Big Lebowski Short

I came across this little gem (video link containing adult language) through Brad Feld.  It’s a shortened version of The Big Lebowski, focusing on one of the more popular words used throughout the movie.  It’s condensed to only a couple minutes but still quite a good summary.  One of my favorite all time movies, and this definitely does it justice.

Personal

How Many of Us Are There??

For a few years now I’ve known of another Ryan McIntyre.  This one is in the IT industry as well, although now more on the VC side of the world (at least from the sounds of things on his blog).  Earlier today a co-worker sent me a couple links to some new search engines, so I thought I would try them out by putting my name in.  Of course, the Ryan McIntyre I mentioned was the first link to come up.  I had a couple minutes time so I decided to see what he was up to and followed the link.  I found a couple interesting posts, but one that jumped out at me was one mentioning he had just bought a home in Boulder, where I was born.  I thought that was an odd coincidence so I decided I’d better subscribe.  I also sent him an email just to say hi.  We’ll see if I hear anything back.

BizTalk

Ampersand in Binding Script

Came across something new today (imagine that!)  I was packaging up a new release that adds, among other things, a send port going to an FTP site.  The name of the target folder on the FTP site uses an ampersand (&, in case you don’t know ;-)).  Well, my deployment scripts use XML binding files to bind all the orchestrations and set up the ports, so I went into the binding file to add the new info for the send port.


Of course, when adding the ampersand in XML it needs to be escaped.  As in “&”.  No problem.  The SendPort in the binding file has two elements that contain the target folder name.  Address and TransportTypeData.  The ampersand in the Address element can just be escaped as normal.  However, the ampersands in the TransportTypeData element (there are two instances in the element) cannot be escaped as normal.  If you used a binding file before you know (or you can see) that the data in the TransportTypeData element is itself escaped XML which then gets read by BizTalk to set up the properties on the send port.


My first guess was to try escaping it “twice”, such as “&”, with the hope that the first pass would result in “&” and the second pass would result in the desired “&”.  The import wizard liked it, but when I tried going in to view the properties of the send port it came up and told me I had some invalid XML.  Back to the guessing game.


Except sometimes I don’t like guessing.  So I did it the way I should’ve in the first place.  I set up the port through the BizTalk Explorer and ran an export on the assembly binding to see how BizTalk did it.  Turns out it I was close, but needed to escape it one more time.  The right way to do it is “&”  Perhaps that’s an XML trick not specific to BizTalk, but I never came across it before.

Business, Personal

The Art of The Finish

I came across The Art of The Finish post by D. Keith Robinson through my Lifehacker feed.  Very good advice on things to keep in mind when tackling a project, software or otherwise.  It seems directed towards more of an IT group, but there are points in there that got me to thinking about my basement finishing project.  One worth repeating for me is titled “Don’t Get Hung Up On Mistakes.”  A tidbit:


“You’re going to screw up somewhere along the way. Acknowledge your mistakes, do what you can to fix them and move on. Do not get caught up in the blame game or spend any time on excuses.”


This one was hard for me when working on my basement.  I wanted everything to be perfect, which had two side-effects.  One, I took more time than normal to do things I expected to be perfect.  Two, I was reluctant to let others help since I didn’t think they would do as good of a job as me.  Although it may be true that by letting others do some tasks the quality was a bit less than what I would’ve done, if those people wouldn’t have helped me the project would still be going on.  (Ok, technically, it’s still going on since I have a few things to finish up, but it’s more or less done.)


A link found in The Art of The Finish post points to another good idea:  The Fuck Off Flag (F.O.F.).  A very good idea, if you can get others in your office to accept the rule.  Probably easier in a small company, unless you’re in a position to dictate rules such as these.

.NET

Convert object to decimal

Yesterday Bill (boss) asked if I could help a non-.NET developer with a .NET problem they were having at another client.  Of course, I said “sure”.  Therein begins the saga…


David and I spent 30 minutes or so on the phone so he could explain the web app that had the issue.  The error they were seeing was an Invalid Cast error on a line similar to:


decimal result = (decimal) dr[”Column1”];


Where dr is a datarow from a dataset which is of type double.  Seems pretty harmless to me, but put together a sample program and run it and low and behold you get a cast error.  I spent some time in the docs to see if I missed some precision issue between double and decimal but everything looked compatible to me.


Then it hit me.  That line of code isn’t trying to do an explicit cast from double to decimal.  It’s doing an explicit cast from object to decimal.  I still didn’t think that would be an issue, but I was on the right track.  After some quick googling I found a couple posts referring to the inability to cast a value type to anything other than the exact type of the object.  In this case, I was breaking that rule.


No, the docs do not mention that.  At least as far as I could find.  Anyway, changing the above line to:


decimal result = System.Convert.ToDecimal(dr[”Column1”]);


Fixes the problem.  Apparently the Convert methods have logic to handle the unboxing properly and then do the convert.  Have to remember that rule.  Learn something new every day!

Business

Corporate Blogging Take 1

A little while back I was in a meeting at work discussing different ways to reach out to employees.  We currently use a monthly meeting that has a set topic, but attendance was going down.  I forget who, but at some point someone mentioned the possibility of doing a corporate blog.  We discussed how we would want it to work and who would contribute, and then I “volunteered” to run the effort to get it set up.


“No problem”, I thought.  I’ve had a blog for a while, read them regularly, and have good technical knowledge on setting up or writing software to support the blog.  I figured the hardest part would be figuring out if we were going to host it ourselves or put it on an existing blogging site.  Then I’d probably end up being one of the folks to review content before it was published.


Problem.  Getting a company set up to communicate openly with the outside world requires a bit more than technical knowledge and blogging experience.  I first had a meeting with our VP of marketing concerning where we wanted to host this thing and the discussion quickly turned into a “how do I control this to not ruin our corporate image” discussion.  Which is fine, that’s her job to worry about that.  It brought up quite a few interesting questions I hadn’t thought of and we didn’t have the answer for.  Such as (theoretically speaking) “When Ryan McIntyre posts an entry on our corporate blog what do we do when we figure out Ryan McIntyre linked to a porn site through an online forum?”  My knee-jerk answer is “Nothing.”  What’s personal is personal and what’s business is business.  Well, it’s not quite that simple.  If someone is able to put two and two together and figure out that the Ryan McIntyre linking to porn is the same Ryan McIntyre working at Statera, Statera then gets a tarnished public image.  You can see how these types of questions and hypotheticals can quickly snowball into a 500 page corporate policy that has to be reviewed by a team of 10 lawyers.


(Note to self:  Remove links to porn sites)


I told Jess (Marketing VP) that I would do some research to see what other companies have put in place and how they’ve handled the situation and get back to her.  My first stop was Microsoft for two reasons.  One, we’re a Gold Partner with Microsoft and if we were to implement a policy similar to theirs I think we’d get something rolling pretty quickly.  Second, their most popular blogger, Robert Scoble (or x-blogger as he’s since left Microsoft) is one of the most popular bloggers in the blogging community and highly respected.  He just finished co-authoring a book on blogging as well.  After a couple emails I finally got him on the phone and asked him some questions on our dilemma and tried to understand how Microsoft was addressing the same issues.


I can sum up his answers very briefly.  Be Smart.  Basically, any written policy just covers what’s important to a company.  If a corporation doesn’t want it’s employees bad-mouthing their partners and it will terminate employees that break that rule, that should be in the written policy.  If a corp doesn’t care about that and won’t automatically fire someone, leave it out.  Either way, the Smart employee would not do it.  The analogy Robert used was to compare blogging to public speaking, and it’s very accurate.  Anything and everything you put on the internet can be related back to your company, even if it’s a public forum that you’re using to view porn on your own time (theoretically.)  The three main concerns coporations have when addressing blogging are (1) Eliminating embarassing situations, (2) Limiting the leak of intellectual property, and (3) Limiting airing of dirty laundry.  I’m sure his book expands on this a bit, but it’s pretty self explanatory and really just makes sense.  If your Smart.


Scoble just did an exit interview with Channel 9 in which they discuss some of these topics as well, so if you have an extra 45 minutes or so, check it out.  Two notes I took were related to two questions that bloggers need to be able to answer.  The first is that they need to know when they post they are taking a risk.  The risk is variable depending on the topic and contents, but a risk nonetheless.  The second is that they need to be able to answer what they want to accomplish by posting.  If they can’t address those two questions they’re in risk themselves of being surprised by a negative response, either from an employer or an individual.


So my task to set up a corporate blog now involves working on setting up a policy.  Either a new policy or enhancing existing policies, or just saying our current policies already are sufficient and just re-publish them so folks read them with a blogging perspective.  Since my research began with Scoble, I thought I should start my internet search on his site to see what he’s posted on the subject.  He has a couple on the subject, but this one on just being yourself was the one I bookmarked.  It shows the impact a blog can have, plus he has a link to the Marketing Sherpa’s article on corporate blogging.  I haven’t splurged for the $5 to download that article, but looks like it might be worth the money.


My continued searching led to quite a fiew corporate blogging policies for companies like Sun, IBM and Yahoo!.  I’m not going to link to them individually since I found a post comparing all of the policies and links to them on corporateblogging.info.  Doesn’t look like this site is updated anymore, but the content that’s there is helpful.


I’ll need to take a look at all I’ve found and figure out what makes sense for Statera, as things relate to our existing policies.  So much for technical knowledge being the only tool to accomplish this task, but I sure am learning quite a bit about corporate America and what makes it tick.