Sunday, August 20, 2006

Will NetFlix ever do UMDs?

Even before my groundbreaking purchase of a PSP, I'd long wondered if NetFlix would ever diversify and start supporting a UMD rental model. This is a year-old issue, but still worth considering, I think. Blockbuster has gone the route, and so has GameFly - but apparently NetFlix scoffed at the notion. Such would be a risk of sorts, when thinking about it, seeing as how the market's shifted after less-than-stellar performance for UMD sales and the rise in interest for HD-DVD and BluRay discs.

It would still be cool, though.

My pilgrimage to Mecca

I'm mapping out my team's itinerary for a whirlwind trip to NYC to pick up our National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best News Web Site (no, I will never tire of saying that), and delightfully there's a B&N conviniently located right down the street from my hotel. Freakin' a!

KB Toys used to be heaven on earth for me when I'd vacation to the mainland as a kid, but I've grown to enjoy good bookstores. The Borders at the Ward Centre in Honolulu kicks ass and I lost count of the shops in Seattle. I can do without the coffee, poetry readings, live music and apron-garbed staff - just gimme an endless inventory of MSRP-listed quality stuff.

Random observations

Since this is a lazy Sunday island afternoon, and since I treated myself to finally purchasing a Playstation Portable, some things about the world became apparent to me:

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

No rest for the ambitious

I love being in the news business. While it's debatably cost me my sanity and social life, it does make for some pretty cool moments. Just as I was getting ready to head out for the day, I got tipped off about a developing story involving a big telecomm company and the local government. I started looking into it and calling my contacts and started writing. 45 minutes later I'd developed a pretty decent look at a pretty juicy issue.

This is the most technical I've ever gotten writing for mainstream audiences, so if you don't understand something - look it up.

Check it out. Constant connectivity, baby.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Keep session IDs out of URLs unless you really need them there

Of my most viewed blog posts on effective web design, the most popular contunues to be those dealing with URL aesthetics. I've now developed a legitimate beef centered around this topic.

One thing that's now irritating me are ASP, JSP, PHP and ASP.NET developers who incessantly and for no apparent purpose append an app's session ID to their URLs. This I don't get. I've only ever put such a unique string in a URL, using a GUID to keep track of specific records submitted by unique users in a NCAA March Madness app I did this year. And I wasn't proud of having to use that particular construct.

Like everything on the Web, it's probably got its place - functionally if not pleasing to the eye - but there are better ways to do things. Most peope I've talked to don't even need it....the page can be viewed just fine by lopping the session ID data off.

Amy Hoy on overcoming Rails scaffolding

Amy Hoy's got a great presentation posted on how to easily handcraft the shortcomings of Rails' scaffolding for data access in managed MVC environments. It's quite entertaining, and really easy to follow along.

The secret(s) to my success

The genius that is venture captitalist Guy Kawasaki blogged a memorable manisfesto when talking about maintaining a high batting average for business success:
The short answer is called “Guy’s Golden Touch.” You might think this means, “Whatever Guy touches turns to gold.” If only this were true. The actual definition is, “Whatever is gold, Guy touches.”
In a similar vein, I was asked recently if I had a magical formula that I use in building sustainable victories through the course of my career as a product marketer. And it only hit me this morning in the shower (the place where most great moment of clarity come) that the three shared characteristics I've injected into the companies I've worked for, the firms I've independently consulted and the projects I've worked on, are as follows:
So that's me. My Holy Trinity of factors I carry with me into any job. It's worked so far.

What are yours?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Do not challenge my dialectic

Damn...I should have been a lawyer. One of the things that I enjoy most about being in the media business is the ability to justifiably put audiences in thier place if they're in the wrong. This isn't the first time I've blogged about this little job perk. I relish this benefit so much more because having come from a retail background, where senseless consumer ass-kissing is mandated, the "customer is always right" pragmatism doesn't necessarily apply.

Here's an example of such from today. A story I did yesterday in which the U.S. Marines conducted urban training near a residential area (which you can read or watch) training inspired the following e-mail from a viewer:
Jason,

I am perturbed as to how the military can do things like blow things up without proper permission. Or did they get permission and we don't know. Do you know who gave them the good-to-go to invade the old GMH site? Can you cover the permitting process for this on your next news cast?

I do understand that training for urban warfare "might" be important for the military. But what they are really doing is hypnotizing our island as to their impending reoccupation of the island.

We become mesmerized with the uniform and "boom".

My concern: Our tourism industry is important. Once the military starts showing up wherever they want and start doing disruptive things, what does the tourist take back home from their trip here? I say they would tell their friends that the military is taking over. I don't think a tourist would want to vacation on an island that displays an aggressive violent disposition.
Having somewhat of a military background myself - many friends and relatives have or do currently serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, and I was in ROTC in high school - this led me to pen the following retort:
Thanks for writing. I can understand your concern, but keep in mind that we are talking about the United States military, so all aspects were planned out meticulously prior to Sunday's training, and safety - both for the Marines themselves and especially for the surrounding civilians - was Job #1. They also don't "blow things up without proper permission"; everything was properly cleared with the proper authorities and secured beforehand. Marines were posted around the perimeter of the training area so curious passersby wouldn't be in harm's way.

Just to ally your concerns about the use of the land - the USMC was granted use of the old GMH property from the Government of Guam, and there was even at least one Camacho Administration cabinet member who stopped by to see that everything was running smoothly. The training exercise was also under tight observation from the FBI.

The Marines' public information officer also personally went from door-to-door at the surrounding residential areas and at the new GMH and informed residents that such training would occur. We've also been mentioning the training on the news for the last week, and advising our neighbors not to be alarmed if they hear anything out of the ordinary. So the public certainly was given a heads-up that the training would be happening - whether they chose to heed the warnings or not is beyond our control.

As for tourism, it's a known aspect by the travel industry worldwide that Guam is an island with strong ties to the military, and apparently it hasn't deterred visitors from coming. If anything, it adds to the attractiveness as a U.S. territory. Hawaii, San Diego and other popular places are the same way, and they're not hurting too bad in the tourism game.

So take it from me because I was there, and as a reporter I asked exhaustive questions about the mission. Everything was legit, and I felt completely safe in the company of my new friends...and I was literally a few feet from the blast area.
Damn...I should have been a lawyer.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

LostRemote.com featured in RTNDA news & tech summit

I'll be in New York City to receive our National E.R. Murrow Award for Best News Web Site (saying that never gets old), but I may have to stay an extra few days to check out RTNDA's conference on News & Technology. I'm particularly interested in the case-study discussion about the LostRemote.com guys (who for a few weeks became NowBreaking.com and are migrating back), a site that produces an RSS feed I read religiously. (I've even made their cover page a few times.)

Good for Cory and his crew - they certainly deserve the nod.

Could we see ASP.NET on Rails?

Last year, my friend Craig Shoemaker interviewed Thomas Tomiczek, a developer who is REALLY into object/relational mapping (it's a good listen). With the rise in agile web development frameworks like Ruby on Rails, Django and Seaside, this makes me wonder if more formal, enterprise-level frameworks like .NET and J2EE would follow suit and develop their own ORM-based solutions. I've blogged about this before, and I can't get it out of my head.

I hope DHH plans to patent Rails, because this might lead to some Microsoft offshoots. But when you think about it, the general model that ORM produces is tailor-made for use in any number of languages - his own implementation just happens to be specific to Ruby. In fact, Googling the topic of ASP.NET on Rails returned some very interesting results from people who apparently have considered such a prospect, too. The general consensus at this point seems to be that LINQ and/or the offspring DLINQ would serve to be the final destination (although Jon and Paul each pose good arguments to the contrary in the case of the latter).

I'm projecting based on history that a talented Microsoft dev out there, if not before Microsoft itself, would whip up an ORM-based solution to let people interface with ADO.NET logic, possibly through the existing Data Application Blocks, to interface with data. This would assumedly result in greatly reduced C#/VB.NET code, and would surely reduce the amount of problems people have with the various data management classes, brought about mainly by their own poor coding. Going with the flow, the system would need to provide the auto-mapped "pretty URLs" that are the hallmark of today's agile open source platforms.

If MS gets wind of it, it's a no-brainer that they'll tout the same basic principles used by today's agile frameworks beneath the guise of a superior IDE, coupled with heavy promotion of Atlas for AJAX support. Behold the next version of Visual Studio.

The big hurdle as I see it would be transitioning Microsoft-centric application architectures from the n-tier model to a more pure MVC form. One can also argue that such may not even apply, as doing so would eliminate the ability to use ASP.NET for "one-off" development, being single web pages that are still dynamic and data-aware, but don't necessarily warrant setting up an entire app. It's this lack of support for atomic development that I find to be the major weakness of MVC as a whole. The great amount of abstraction and clean separation requires a lot of setup for simple jobs.

But a criticism of basing a forthcoming version of ASP.NET on Railsy managed apps with ORM using MVC would be the effects on the current model .NET v.2.0 convention of declarative programming, using more controls than code. Dropping pre-fab, but still configurable elements within a model would really speed production time. So maybe that makes for a niche advantage untapped by any of the agile platforms to date.

So while it's speculative at the moment, the interest in LINQ/DLINQ seems to imply that a managed web framework driven by ORM is the direction in which we as Microsoft developers are heading. People way smarter than I have undoubtedly already considered such a strategy at length. Whether someone in the development community gives rise to it in conjunction with or completely separate from Microsoft will be interesting to see, for sure.

Farewell, free time

After a stressful time migrating my site to the new design concept and implementing new features, and then building a subsite to cover the local elections, my department admittedly had a little lag, so I enjoyed the slight downtime. And now, it's back to the grind. Next week and for three months following, we'll be doing something relative to the election every weekend - a remote broadcast, a special production, some sort of community-centric activity.

So while I did take time to breathe during a nice break, it's back to Hardcore Mode.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Stupidest. search. query. ever.

I noticed while going through our list of searched terms on the internal search tool we have on KUAM.com that someone used it to enter "where is KUAM's search tool?"

I'm not sure if there's a word to accurarely classify exactly how moronic that is.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics

After months of sitting on my approved use of Google Analytics, I finally got around to adding the JavaScript to generate usage and traffic data for my blog. This site probably doesn't get more than 5 million hits per month, so I don't need to have AdWords adorning my pages.

Let's see how popular this little side project has become.

'Behind the Scenes @ KUAM' photostream

We were taking new photos for our annual Press Kit, and the bird's-eye shot below didn't make the final batch (indicative of how good the product must be). This was shot during one of our nightly newscasts, in which I'm once again busted for wearing K-Swiss with a suit. In this particular shot, Clynt Ridgell is doing an in-person lead-in to his exclusive report on the trouble with mass transit while Sabrina and I anchor. Joe Termulo is running the set in the background.

This makes for sweet desktop wallpaper. I've got quite a collection of these...check out KUAM's new Flickr photostream and RSS feed. It also makes for a helluva screensaver.



Thursday, August 10, 2006

Happy 10th, Flash

Adobe blows out the candles this week, commemorating a decade of Flash. I first got wind of the web's dominant animation development toolkit circa 1998 when a guy joined my web development group at a local ISP, having previously done work in Japan. This was all he talked about. And while I didn't get it at first, it eventually grew on me.

But to this day, I get so sick of sites either over- or underutilizing the platform - using Flash for small things like useless banners, or full-on sites with no unique URLs. I've tried several times to get better at the platform with tweens and shape objects as the versions seemed to fly by, and even took up ActionScript, thinking it would be more familiar to my programmer side. I know enough to be dangerous.

It is a cool and fun suite to work with, and is giving Windows Media Player a run for its money in that lucrative market. Happy birthday!

Encouraging your viewers to 'YouTube' your stuff

Here's a tremendous blog post that talks about mainstream media and new media publishers adopting liberal community rehashing of their stuff...encouraging their audiences to recycle their material on YouTube. I support such a notion because I've been blatantly doing so for the past severla months.

Since YouTube places a 10-minute cap on member-uploaded clips, I intentionally keep interviews and guest appearances short, with the notion they'll make it on someone's profile page, and the rehashed in perpetuity through embedding on blogs, etc.
Ask your audience to ‘You Tube’ you: "Too many media companies still see YouTube as the enemy instead of the terrific promotional tool that it is. Encourage your audience to put news stories of yours they think are interesting on YouTube. Have a contest. Promote it. You will empower the people who like your stories the most to spread the word. You will get them involved in the story-telling process, and you will build their loyalty. "

My new vegan kick

As they say, the largest room in the world is the room for improvement.

While I didn't enroll in a program being offered locally, I'm being the supportive friend for several co-workers who dared to shelves thier numerous vices and eating better right along with them. It's mainly vegan - "eat nothing that has a face" seems to be the overriding theme. I've got no problem eating foods consisting mainly of soy and tofu and faux, well...everything. But it's really improved my energy level. So while I genuinely feel better about myself, and my physical health is improved...it's killing my wallet. I got a small meal for Sabrina and I and it ran me $30. I don't know if my bank account can handle three more weeks of this.

It's no big secret that Guam isn't the healthiest of places, and adopting such a lifestyle is evidently pretty cost-prohibitive. And it doesn't help that the only kitchen that specializes in such cuisine is more than 10 miles from work, and I'm making the trip there daily. Thank goodness I've got uncommonly good will power...a lot of my colleagues are really suffering through this.

You can watch or download a video interview my station did about the program. Thanks to all of you that wrote the station and sent your support. I know my co-workers need it.

**UPDATE**
I do need to point out that Simply Food has the most kick-ass garlic bread on the island. The bread itself is regular French loaf, but it's some sort of fat-free, soy butter. Truly, I can't believe it's not butter. I'd totally switch today.

Skill set fandango

I came across an interesting job listing today that specifically looked for PHP developers...and nothing but. A friend said he'd throw his hat in the ring, noting his deep background in ASP 3.0. I wondered about the fit, but he maintained that he would be worth candidate, considering the spaghetti coding and mixing of code and markup. Although he couldn't tell you any PHP functions off the top of his head, he's a VBScript guru, and thought the main architectural considerations still made his talents applicable.

This is an interesting point: are quasi-related disciplines like ASP and PHP necessarily interchangable? Would you hire someone based on their implied knowledge on another platform? I've often had to turn down inquiries from ASP jocks when I need ASP.NET work done because the platforms are too disparate. And some other disciplines aren't a perfect match, but surely bleed enough over into one another to make candidates skilled in one at least considerable for a job in work requiring the other (i.e., JavaScript to ActionScript, C++ to Python, Perl to Ruby, Java to C#).

And if so, how do you gauge talent from companies that use homegrown scripting languages like Disney, or entirely new frameworks like ColdFusion, .NET, or J2EE?

Piss on my parade.

Not the cheeriest of e-mails one wants to be greeted with in the morning:
We received your resume and would like to thank you for your interest in Google. After carefully reviewing your experience and qualifications, we have determined that we do not have a position available which is a strong match at this time.

Thanks again for considering Google. We wish you well in your endeavors and hope you might consider us again in the future.

Sincerely,
Google Staffing
I knew I should have taken up Python earlier. Dang. (On a positive note, at least they let know know you've struck out.)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Don't tell me how to think

I found out from friends that a seminar held locally recently on sales tactics featured a guest speaker who tried to use a mixed-message approach to getting his point across. Evidently, in presenting anecdotes and analogies he often intermingled scripture, his personal disdain for corporate America, and feelings about the President and war. What this has to do with closing on the perfect sales pitch I'm still trying to figure out.

Were I there, I would have walked out...because I've done so before. Numerous times. I'm smart enough to have developed my own axiology and I subscribe to the mandates of my own faith, and while I'm tolerant and accepting of the beliefs and principles of others, quoting "Varsity Blues" - I don't want your life.

This happens so often during presentations that it makes me sick. Stick to the subject at hand and talk about what we came here for and don't preach religion, philosophy or politics. We've got a problem if you do.

The sad thing is I know there are those that like sheep believes whatever he said and like lemmings followed the crowd.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Stuff I'd buy on UMD

While I'm still largely on the fence over buying a Playstation Portable, largely because I'm not sure how much time I'll have to actually use it. One of the main reasons is that I'm not sure how often I'd watch UMDs, brought on by the incredibly small screen. It's the same reason I haven't upgraded my iPod to watch video.

I'm all for the progressive application of multimedia, but if you think I'm going to watch a full-length presentation on a 3-x-3 screen (or worse), you're out of your damn mind. So, to get around this, I'd check out short-attention span, fragmented programming, not the entirety of "Roots". Here are some titles I think I'd buy:
And even though I'm going against the model, I'd still lay down good money to watch "Grey's Anatomy" on ANY device. That show rocks.

Any suggestions?

The bad thing about Java-based IDEs is that they're Java-based IDEs

I've always been in love with the "write once, run anywhere" concept of Java applications. It's the performance of such apps in Windows that's always driven me nuts. I've been working with RAD environments meant to speed development, which ironically can crawl on even the fastest of Win32 machines.

I've previously used the Java-based Jext, and I've messed with various IDEs based on Eclipse. While they're phenomenal in their management of projects and working with code, I always wind up using something else because of the lagging performance. To the contrary, my favorite editor, ScITE, runs really lean and mean. Not being blessed with auto-completing of syntax, it works more as a code-coloration application that supports a ton of languages, (X)HTML, XML, CSS, and SQL. And it runs fast. It's the same reason I normally use ASP.NET Web Matrix over any of the versions of Visual Studio (especially VS.NET 2003).

I guess it comes down to wanting more features vs. performance. In what environment can you be more productive?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Inconsistent encoding performance with Flash Video Encoder 8

I'm trying to suss out a weird technical problem I've been having over the past six weeks with Flash Video Encoder 8. Most of the time, it renders clips at a decent speed, taking about 75% of the actual playback length of the clip to render (45 seconds for a 1 minute clip). But every so often, the app renders at a breakneck speed, encoding at nearly 3x the playback speed (taking 20 seconds for a 1 minute clip). I'd like to figure out how to keep this faster rendering time so I can publish videos toour web site faster, but it's spotty.

I'm running the app on a 2.4Ghz IBM ThinkPad running Windows XP with 2GB RAM. Simultaneously, Norton AntiVirus is running on the machine with AutoProtect enabled, along with some of the default installation features of Office 2003. It's obviously capable of rendering clips really quickly, but I can't get it to consistently work as fast as it can. I'm wondering if a background service in Windows that's compromising the speed.

Anyone got any suggestions?

Mainstream Media Meltdown III

Chris Anderson gives a really good update on some of the behavior effects in mainstream media. Pretty harrowing stuff. Good thing I'm swimming at both ends of the pool.

Down:

Mixed:

Up:


No, the Internet is not "down"

Several years ago while working for a large local telecomm provider I tired of seeing people make writing errors with technical terms, so I published a writing guide that documented how to write technically. Examples of which included capitalizing proper pronouns ("Internet", "Web") and other rules. But with bandwidth issues caused by recent bad weather, I've heard a lot of people in and out of my office saying, "Hey, I can't check my e-mail...is the Internet down?", referring of course to latency and/or downtime with their LAN due to problems with their ISP.

For the last time: no, people...the Internet is not down. It's your network, not the network of networks. If, in theory, the 'Net crashed, would be a catastrophe of Biblical proportions. Okay, maybe I'm biased as a systems guy, but please heed the warning.

Get it right.

I am so glad I don't smoke

Several co-workers are starting a much-overdue commitment to quitting smoking today as part of a popular cleasing program offered locally by a friend of mine, and already I'm feeling the residual effects. The first day is truly the hardest. Man, that must be tough. Being in high-stress roles doesn't help.

Good luck, all...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I am NOT omniscient

One of the key lines I recall from 1993's "Rudy" was this little gem on reality:
Son, in 40 years of religious studies I've come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts:
There is a God, and I ain't Him.

With a storm a-brewin' within our region, we've naturally been fielding a ton of inbound calls. It's part of our job. I've been through this countless times not only as a member of the media, but as a citizen. And the vast majority of the calls I've taken - from concerned residents, the competition trying badly to disguise their voices to get a scoop, or people from our sales department - all have valid concerns. Nearly all ask about the projections we've made and what smart folks at the National Weather Service are estimating. I do my job - respectfully, politely, and to the best of my ability. Until I run into the goofballs.

A few people dare to pose a question that over the years has become #1 on my Pet Peeve List for Natural Disasters: "Jason, do YOU think the storm's going to hit us?" Mama raised a realist, so I always say "I really don't know", audibly leaning heavily on the sarcasm and then being silent...affording them those few key seconds to digest the absurdity of their inquiry. In like fashion, I get variations of the same bounced off me all the time for sporting events (i.e., "Who's going to win the Super Bowl? Gimme the inside track!").

As if I'm privy to knowledge from a higher plane of existence.

One thing I've learned is there are things beyond our control. So while you can make a career out of speculation, it's pointless to make a definitive call. Heck, the best geophysicists are the ones that say despite their fancy computers and charts we just have to see what Mother Nature has in store so to make predictions is trivial. Because at the end of the day, you really can never really tell for sure what's coming down the pipe. We pray for the best, but prepare for the worst.
And we don't assume we know exactly what's going to happen.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Django vs. Rails

For you adversarial types, here's a really good, objecitve comparison of Ruby on Rails vs. Django. Good stuff.

Book review: "Agile Web Development with Rails"

Agile Web Development with Rails: A Pragmatic Approach
by Dave Thomas and David Heinemeier Hanson
published by The Pragmatic Programmers

In all my years of reading, using and reviewing technical books, this is the first title I've read cover to cover, and in so doing actually built the sample application from start to finish. Most other books use a series of disconnected This book was my first foray months ago into the beautiful world of Rails development, and continues to function as the crowned jewel in my reference library anytime I have a question about Rails or Ruby.

The developer that gets the most out of Ruby on Rails is the experienced progammer with a diverse background (expertise in some programming language, database/SQL experience, server administration, etc.). This is the crowd that will appreciate the rapid development features of Rails, abstracting away many of the tedious tasks necessary to build stable, scalable, secure web applications, with a fraction of the code.

Dave Thomas pens a classic tutorial on building a practical e-commerce app, applicable in several diverse scenarios, and certainly helpful in its design of leveraging the capabilities of the web framework. There's also insightful contributions by Rails creator David Heinemeier Hanson, which helps for some of the more niche concerns experienced developer have likening Rails to platforms they may be more familiar with.

Each chapter is fairly succinct, teaching proper Rails software design, coding conventions, and incorporating OOP principles.

The book is essentially presented in three parts: building the sample app; learning best practices development on Rails; and a healthy collection of appendices that introduce Ruby syntax. While I didn't necessarily agree with the book's organization at first glance, it does make sense when you realize just how easy it is to setup powerful, automated systems with Rails learning in such a fashion. You'll get up and running with the easy stuff and then move onto the more advanced topics.

In criticism, I would have liked to see a more robust appendix of Ruby and Rails APIs (at least documenting some of the more popular attributes and methods), as well as a cheat sheet for the common command-line syntax used in setting up apps. I would also have liked to see a little more documentation about using databases other than MySQL, and perhaps a tad more of a discussion on MVC architecture, at least academically. It would have also been nice to dive a little deeper into working with e-mail and some of the more advanced XML features with Rails. True to the framework which is represents, the book does move at a frenetic pace.

But that aside, this is the best, easiest way to learn Ruby on Rails. This will be the best investment you've ever made into the open source space.


Friday, August 04, 2006

'Pragmatic' books need to be better built

If you've ever read any of the technical book reviews I've done over the years, you might notice that I tend to base my overall assessment of a book on one facet that few do: its physical construction. It means a lot to me as a programmer to be able to guve a book a real workout, flipping mercilessly through its pages, bending its spine way out of proportion, and carrying it in all sorts of off ways.

That having been said, I'm a tad disappointed in The Pragmatic Programmers series of tech titles. And this is unfortunate, because while I feel they lack in their survivability, they're among the best written books I've got in my library. Each is a masterpiece of technical literature, well documented, organized logically, and proofread better than most. They just haven't hold up in my lab.

For some reason, my copies of Pragmatic AJAX: A Web 2.0 Primer, Agile Web Development with Rails and Programming Ruby just have fallen apart. Maybe it's because of the quality and applicability of the content, I wind up using them more. I value the weight of paper used, the sturdiness of a cover, the flexibility of a book's binding. All I know is that I've had to order duplicate copies to have around after the initial ones end up in tatters. And I've got more on the way.

This isn't in any way a knock on the authors, and I don't blame them at all...but I do hope the publishers take this into consideration.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

ASP.NET 3.0 will need to be based on ORM

Having played with the modern agile web frameworks lately, namely Ruby on Rails and Django, and as such having been out of the progressive .NET loop, I'm going to make a blind projection that the next version of ASP.NET - assumedly 3.0 as part of the WinFX framework - will be heavily based on an intelligent object/relational mapper. While the objectives of furthering the Framework will be reducing code, increasing performance, a high level of abstraction, and declarative over syntactical programming, a major part of competitive leveraging will have to be making the platform "stupidly fast" (borrowing a line from Django's Adrian Holovaty) through a wickedly smart ORM interface.

This will ostensibly be akin to more pure MVC but undoubtedly behave in more Microsoft-centric fashion, managing communications between n-number of application tiers. The need to write complex SQL will be eliminated, but still supported, I envision. Combining the best of ASP.NET 2.0 with the agile technologies, control-based configuration will allow communications with complex data structures, and automate a lot of repetitive actions, like CRUD operations.

.NET 1.x tried to do this in ADO.NET's managed classes, and did it OK. The type management and marshalling of DataSet data is great. But the one problem I've got has been the SqlCommandBuilder class in the System.Data.SqlClient namespace. Rarely, if ever, do apps that I build require a single database table. I swear, I've tried countless times to make SqlCommandBuilder to work for me, and I always wind up writing the SQL by hand and hacking out some solution.

If Microsoft maintains it's history of product development, it's going to be smart and recognize the major benefit of newer frameworks, and build this into its next version.

How to get through MY job interviews

It's usually around this time that we get a lot of job inquiries from newly-minted college grads looking for their first real gig, and this year's no exception. With new media being more and more the norm for mainstream applicants, people wanting to do great things with interactive news fall under my purview. I've been told by more than a few people that I'm among the toughest job interviewers locally. Whether this is something to flaunt or work on, I can't say...all I know is my technique works for me in getting the right candidate to do the job we need them to do to stay on top of the local news market.

So for those of you thinking about getting into the news game, here's a cheat sheet at surviving one of my interviews.

(And before you think I'm bitter or unjustifiably uncouth, don't...I grew up in a household where Dad was VP of human resources for many moons, so procedure, congeniality, politeness, and legal rights are engrained into my review process. 'Neath the guise of a rapid-fire Q&A session. I also know everyone deserves a fair shot and there's ability in everyone that maybe they don't even realize.)

Certainly, my interviewing style has been dramatically shaped by my experience interviewing with Microsoft. This is to say that I use the interview process as half personal introduction/half facilities tour, above all I value punctuality, honesty and hygiene, and I ask a lot of tough questions in quick succession - many of which have no real solution. I'm intentionally anal and persistently pessimisstic, and I give you not a whole lot of time to respond. I mix up questions a lot, so that no real pattern develops.

I've always felt "skill set" to be a relative term. Everyone's good at something. As a fellow software developer, I get a grasp of your technical ability from your CV, and that's it. So make that document rock solid. I won't waste your time or mine asking about memorizing petty database connection strings for every DB server under the sun, expect you to know every property, method and event in the platform API off the top of your head, or ask the canonical 'parallel variable swap' quandary. If you're genuinely good at computer science, it'll show eventually.

Bottom line: I want to see how you think in pressure situations, being tasked to develop a very creative, specific, competitive solution, not given a lot of detail about what to do, facing a really short deadline and multitasking at an incredibly accelerated pace. Because that's precisely that's how we do things.

So the best tip I can give is to just be yourself. The preceding sounds like a lot - and it is - but the best broadcast communicators are really smart people that stay true to themselves, remain humble yet confident, and never stop learning.

Show me these skills, and you're in.

Big-time media issues in small markets

I got a fair amount of flack from my site's users this past weekend - particularly those that enjoy the mixed-martial arts events that our sister company produces and couldn't download highlights from Pacific eXtreme Combat 8, which we by association covered. You see, we liberally release most (not all) of the video clips we show in our nightly newscasts as VOD exhibits and a video podcast. If you like what you see on the stream, download our stuff to your PC, PSP, iPod, PDA, other media device, burn it to CD, share it on an infinite number of web-based distribution services...whatever. But they key element is that we retain sole control over what clips we let people download, and what they can stream. Or so we thought.

Leading up to Fight Night, I let people download all the pre-fight interviews, weigh-ins, athlete profiles and analysis...but not the highlights of the event itself. This was intentional, to not promote the after-market community distribution of digital copies of what is and can be a hugely profitable DVD venture. So I can see how people would be pissed when the main exhibit can't be kept. I would be. VH1 does this all the time with V-Spot, which I've blogged about before.

Today, I saw that one of the fights is available on YouTube (see below). Set to a re-worked version of Bon Jovi's "You Give Love A Bad Name", it's very creative. And I'm totally digging the exposure, as I'm sure are my superiors. But this doesn't avoid the damaging effects on the potential revenue we could be realizing from DVD sales. Why pay when you can get them from a copy someone recorded, possibly pirated, or illegally copied? This is something a small market like Guam's is beginning to face more and more with Web 2.0 services bridging the logistical divide for media companies.



Consider another example: I previously covered the digital migration of Guam's cable company, hinting that Tivo-esque DVRs would soon be on the horizon. While the latter plan has been setback a bit, this still doesn't make affiliate companies like mine completely safe from the the fact that viewers can skip past commercials. The forthcoming brand of DVR, Scientific Atlanta, does this, and does it really well, from what I'm told (others would argue to the contrary). This is a major concern for me and my contemporaries.

So while technology continues to be progressive and make markets like ours more relevant on a global stage, it also introduces a whole new slew of business problems. At what cost success - allowing for viral dissemination of content, achieving unbeatable competitive advantage by the new audiences gained but lose out on monetary benefits, or limit the number of eyeballs to get your stuff, but maximize profitability?

Fast food trumps athletics in KUAM Broadband

I was doing my daily rundown of the stats on my site and going through our media portion, to see what clips people are streaming and/or downloading through our Flash player and VOD service. It's been a pretty intense last 7 days video-wise for us, as we've produced several real cool presentations that people have eaten up. Chief among these (or so I thought) were a mixed-martial arts event we produced over the weekend and a 30-minute special covering a regional Olympics-style athletic festival.

To my surprise, an in-studio interview we did about Church's Chicken opening locally beat out 'em all by a wide margin. Go figure.

Here's the list of our 5 most popular clips this week.

1 - Church's Chicken opening on Guam
2 - Micro Games wrap-up show
3 - Pacific eXtreme Combat 8 highlights
4 - Debate over slot machine gaming heats up
5 - Community rallies to helps family who lost home in fire

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Don't be so mean...

Only a true sadist would choose to focus on the flower...



Joking aside, this is one of hundreds of incredible shots from bert671, a local photog who's got a really amazing photostream that captures life on Guam. You could live 1,000 years and not run out of stuff to shoot here in the islands. Awesome.

BUSTED! (an anchor's secrets revealed)

I introduced one of our interns to Flickr, and I'm starting to regret having done so. Among the shots she's taken and posted to her photostream is this timeless candid, revealing that yes, from time to time, I do wear a two-piece suit with jeans and K-Swiss shoes when anchoring the news live.

Damn...so the truth's out. Comfort before fashion, you know?

I'll be giving Ruby on Rails training on Guam

I'm sure the cries of 'traitor!' are going to resonate islandwide from the members of the .NET user group I run, but taking a page from Brian and Jeff, I'm going to give free training sessions on Ruby on Rails, with particular attention for Microsoft and PHP developers (Java folk are welcome, too).

For the most part, the sessions are going to focus on setting up/configuring RoR on Win32 and Mac OS X systems, drilling down into Rails' ORM features and likening certain aspects of the Ruby language and Rails API to the OOP constructs we're familiar with (i.e., the duality of Ruby's 'self' keyword, functioning simultaneous like C#'s 'this' and 'static'; the syntax-saving nature of 'unless' and '||=', etc.). I'll also spend a decent amount of time on templating with layouts, components and partials; working with XML and AJAX; RoR's implementation od session state; understanding WEBrick/migration to Apache; and using SQL Server instead of MySQL.

I'll also contrast RoR with ASP.NET 1.x/2.0 and the Python-dependent Django. I'm still working on the syllabus, so get in contact with me if you'll be on Guam in September and wan tto get up to speed on agile web frameworks. In the meantime, get primed with the pickaxe Ruby book and the two popular Rails books (here and here).

See you there!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

75 words ain't what it used to be

I'm prepping for an awads banquet for the National Edward R. Murrow my station won for Best News Web Site, part of which is developing a 75-word write-up on our site. Being a professional writer, I assumed I wouldn't have trouble condensing all that we do online into 75 words. Stupid me.

After about 10 revisions running through 3 people, this is what we came up with (73 words, to be exact):

KUAM.com is the key component in KUAM's innovative On Air. Online. On Demand. content distribution philosophy. Coupling slick design with cutting-edge technologies like podcasting, streaming, RSS, mobile access and alerts, the site continues to evolve and expands its wide array of services to meet the challenges of consumer technology and competitive journalism. When news breaks, KUAM.com reports it with the urgency, efficiency and thoroughness across diverse platforms and formats that Guam's audience demands.

Geez, the things we do to market effectively...

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