Covered topics: life in general, personal productivity, life hacks, organization, software development, technology, etc.

Steve McConnell needs a weblog

Steve McConnell is one of my heroes. His book, Code Complete, is one of my favorite programming texts--definitely a classic. Guess what? Code Complete 2 is out!

Steve has a website. That's pretty cool. Here's his picture. But Steve doesn't have weblog. Maybe he should start one at Construx, his current company.

Maybe when you write like he does, you just wait a couple years, put out another classic book, and wait two more years. Blogging, daily or weekly, doesn't fit into that model. Maybe that's what he prefers.

But, as I have been on a binge of consuming the blogs of some great industry minds, I would almost expect to see a blog from the great Steve. So far, I've found blogs for the following:

  • Grady Booch
  • Bill Vaughn
  • Rocky Lhotka
  • Martin Fowler
  • I'm also hoping to find a blog from Larry Wall. He has a website too, but not a weblog. Here's his picture. Based on his website, though, I guess he values time spent on things other than blogging.

    Microsoft: Where's the feed?

    Microsoft has certainly joined the blogosphere in a big way, whether it's the famous Scobleizer or a host of developers (onsite and offsite). Much of the MSDN content is available via RSS.

    Ironically, however, a visit to the MSDN Blogs page, which lists the most recent blog posts from the MSDN Microsoft clan, fails to turn up the famous XML () or RSS () images. In fact, I have yet to find a master list of RSS feeds on Microsoft's website, although this FAQ about blogging and RSS/Atom points to some helpful feeds and resources. A Google search turns up a page of Microsoft PressPass RSS feeds and a Security Updates page with this feed.

    I did find a couple of RSS feeds on the Architecture page and a link to a list of architecture-related blogs, but again without a group RSS feed for the list of blogs altogether. You have to visit each blog to find the RSS link. Simon Guest's black-on-blue RSS link is hard to see, demonstrating the disadvantage of diversity in weblog layout. My best guess is that the URLs just map to the blog software of choice for each author (ain't the web grand?).

    I did unearth a very cool gem while digging through the MSDN blogs, though. Jack Greenfield's blog pointed to a blog by Grady Booch! Talk about cool! I'd only heard legends about the guy, you know, Booch Notation, the "Three Amigos," UML, Rational, etc. He has a blog--how cool is that? And he also has a picture, which I think I will add to my mugroll.

    Then there's also Martin Fowler's "bliki", or in his words:

    A cross between a blog and wiki of my partly-formed ideas on software development

    I need to come back to absorb the essence of his bliki approach to publishing. Fortunately, his hybrid approach still offers an RSS feed. And, of course, Martin has a picture too.

    Bottom line: Microsoft should make it easy to find RSS feeds on their site, including a link on their site map.

    Update: I found (after much searching) a page which lets you search the Microsoft site blogs. It serves up RSS feeds and OPML for categories of blogs.

    What Happened?

    Ian's Messy Desk posts this quote by Casey Stengel:

    Some people make things happen, some people watch things happen, and some ask what happened.

    Ian's site has a very cool graphical layout--something I miss when I convert to "all RSS, all-the-time" blog reading.

    My visual layout here is very basic. It's one of the pre-packaged themes that comes with Radio Userland. One of the things I that fall very low on my priority list is a custom redesign of this blog. Oh, well, it is what it is.

    Mugroll

    I was thinking--wouldn't it be neat to display small pictures (when available) of the persons listed on your blogroll.

    We could call it a "mugroll".

    It would be a similar concept to the custom icon displayed for the website and/or bookmark for a website.

    Now, there's always the question of how to standardize and automate such a project. Would you force a specific filename on a website like /robots.txt does for search engines and bots? Maybe a standard-sized (what dimensions?) PNG, GIF, or JPG file called /aboutme.png. I think requiring a specific path could help automate harvesting, but it might be too restrictive for more complex scenarios than a single-author website.

    Or maybe we could add an optional <authorpic> element to the various syndication feeds.

    And what about a multi-author blog? Could you have an OPML file with authorpic entries, one for each author? Just rambling here.

    Would it be OK to reference graphics on the author's site? Or should we snarf it and host it ourselves to save the author's bandwidth?

    Maybe we could add some kind of new HTML META or LINK tag that points to the picture.

    Oh, and by the way, to get the "mug" rolling, here's my mug (in no standard dimensions):

    A gem

    This is a very simple post here, but I like Sam Ruby's bit of wisdom in response to Depak Alur's apology for being "inexperienced" in the blogging world, expressed in a comment thread on Sam's blog:

    As near as I can tell, there is no right and wrong here. Everybody approaches the "blogosphere" differently.

    I have been part of the blogosphere in some form or another since late in 2002. I have tried many times to keep up with the "A-listers," but time and life have beaten me many days, so my reading and writing frequency has been less than admirable.

    But, as Sam asserts above, that's OK.

    The Blogging Guru without an XML feed

    I've been spending a lot of time lately cancelling email newsletters and switching to RSS/Atom feeds. A friend of mine referred me to Hugh Hewitt's website to look for interesting blogs. I looked and looked (around 5 minutes, including a Google search of his site) and found zero mention of a feed except his confession that someone else complained that he doesn't have one (via BeliefSeekingUnderstanding Update: now moved to "Apprehension"):

    When, oh when, is Hugh going to get it about RSS feeds? There is no stinking way any person could read the number of blogs mentioned at the end of the book without one. Furthermore, he doesn't have a feed of his own, which is a total pain in the neck for his readers. I commend Hugh for being in front of the curve for getting the blogosphere, but it makes no sense that someone who gets the blogosphere doesn't get feeds and aggregators.

    (emphasis mine)

    Here's an excerpt from my email to Hugh:

    I took a brief look at your website after receiving a referral from a friend. Try as I might, I could not find an RSS or Atom feed anywhere. I did, however, find an ad for a book on blogging that *you* wrote. Why, oh why, if you are a blogging expert, can I not find an XML feed for your blog?

    I would like to learn more about what you have to say, but if I have to visit your site frequently, I'm not interested. That's not how I use the internet anymore.

    Here's the kicker: he wrote a book about blogging. The guy's a published author on the very subject in question, and he doesn't have a syndication feed.

    How do you think the blogosphere has taken off so much? I don't think 100% percent of the blogging and/or blog-consuming public sits around all day clicking through their favorite websites. No, they have their digital news delivered to their digital door using pull-based syndication technology.

    How could he miss that? If he didn't miss the RSS wave, then how could he underestimate its importance so much as to exclude it from his own blog? I'm not sure, despite the good reviews (and I'll even use his Amazon link so he gets commission), that he carries enough credibility (I'm sure the pundits/A-listers out there will disagree) for me to buy his book.

    His book is called Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World. But he doesn't understand. Not really.

    A Contact Us link on *Every Web Page*??

    Oh, the gall!

    The automated response to my earlier message from TechRepublic's contact page had this to say:

    If you need more immediate information or assistance, please review our
    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) section provided on our Contact Us page,
    [URL], found at the bottom of every TechRepublic
    Web page.

    Is it really? At the bottom of every web page? I couldn't find it. I searched the text for the word "contact." No such luck.

    Now, to be fair, there was a Help link. But is Help the same as Contact Us? Not in my mind.

    Maybe in the monster content management system they use, someone forgot to add that one. Small thing, right?

    Wrong.

    TechRepublic fails to unsubscribe

    Here's a quick excerpt of the feedback message that I posted to TechRepublic after their unsubscribe process failed about 10 times:

    I have tried about 8-10 times to unsubscribe from your mailings, but each time, I still receive mail. I even tried changing my email on my account to a special alias on my server so I could bounce the email. I am still receiving email at my old address from you after multiple attempts and techniques to *unsubscribe*. Your unsubscribe *does not work*.

    I am totally frustrated with all of the hassle from TechRepublic. I even tried to find your contact link, and all I found was FAQ after FAQ. Finally, I found a *tiny* contact link at the bottom of a FAQ. I know you want to cut down on personal contact overhead, but this is ridiculous. You should really make it easier to find a way to contact you. Don't hide it!

    My goal was to switch all of my email newsletters to RSS feeds. But for some reason, I can't unsubscribe from your email.

    Please remove me from your mailing list--all of them.

    And while you are at it, please deactivate/delete my account.

    We'll see if I get any kind of personal response.

    SQL Server Command-Line Utilities

    I found an article that describes several command-line utilities that can automate SQL Server tasks.

    These commands include:

  • isql
  • osql
  • bcp - bulk data copy
  • dtsrun
  • dtswiz
  • itwiz - Index Tuning Wizard
  • We use a couple of these commands at my current client as part of our build/migration process.

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