fighting the lack of good ideas

why i’m not moving office spaces

I follow Joel Spolsky’s blog/news site, His most recent addition is “Adventures in Office Space“. Apparently, they’ve run out of space in their 8th Avenue office, and will be moving to 55 Broadway in a couple months, once their renovations are in-place.

The reason I mention this is that I interviewed with Fog Creek last December for a systems administration position. They flew me up, put me up at the W on Times Square, and reimbursed my food and parking garage fees for leaving my truck at RDU for a couple days. All-in-all, it was a fun two days.

After my interview on Wednesday, I went to see Cirque du Soleil‘s Wintuk.

I did not quite fit their employee model, because I was not offered the position. (Joel relayed the interview results to me directly, and indicated that it was not a technical issue, but that the personality fit didn’t seem to be there.)

I’m still interested, potentially, in getting a job in “real” city (not that Raleigh is not a ‘city’, but it’s not the same as a San Francisco or a New York), where walking to work seems normal, but for now what I’m doing with HP’s professional services is pretty fun and challenging.

So, my hat is off to Joel and his crew, because they must be doing something right to be needing more office area. Best of luck!

god bless the lugs

I’m a member of TriLUG – the Triangle Linux User Group.

Mostly I’m on the mailing lists as a lurker, sometimes as a contributor.

But this week I asked a couple questions which the friendly community jumped-on to assist me with.

Thanks guys!


I met a friendly girl (Shelly) today at the subway station at 40th and 8th in front of the New York Times building.

But the only reason I bring this up is because she asked me how to get to the number 7 subway.

There I was, calmly reviewing the subway map so I could get to the Museum Mile Festival, and she comes over asking me if I knew how to get to the #7. Mind you, I live in Durham NC, and have only ridden the subway in Manhattan once before today. But she asked me how to get back to Main St in Flushing.

I must have inherited the “ask me directions to anywhere, I can get you there” invisible sign that my dad has. I’ve been asked directions, now, twice on this visit to New York. I couldn’t help the first guy, but Shelly I could.

I pointed-out to her that she had gotten off at the New York Times, and not Times Square. I showed her on the map where the 7 terminates on its west point (Times Square), and mentioned I was heading there myself. To which she asked if she could follow me. Sure, why not?

So up the stairs we headed towards Times Square. Once there, we headed into that subway station, and she found the 7 with no issues, while I went over to find the 3 to head up to Central Park North for the block party thing.

I really do wish I could see that sign, so I at least knew I wasn’t crazy the next time I’m asked for directions by some random person on the street – because I know it’ll happen again.


I just had the best haircut ever.

I’m in Manhattan this week for work, and on my way from the customer I’m working with to my hotel, I was accosted by a very friendly black guy who wanted to give me a haircut.

Now that sounds pretty wierd, but he was standing in front of a barber shop (Diamond Cut Salon and Barber Shop‎), and wanted to direct me inside. Unfortunately, I was carrying my large duffel and computer bag, and really wanted to get checked-in to the hotel I’m staying at so that I didn’t have to schlep 60 pounds of stuff around with me anymore.

After chatting with him for a minute, I told him that if he were still there in 20 minutes, they could give me a haircut (which I was in pretty desperate need of).

When I got back (it was only two blocks), he was heading upstairs with another gentleman who was starting to look a little shaggy. I followed him up, and sat down in the first available chair.

To get an idea of the layout of this place, you need to realize that it’s on the third floor of a building that also has a tattoo and piercing parlor on the second floor. The barber shop has at least eight chairs, and plays R&B and hiphop music loudly, but not so loud you can’t hear the guy (or girl, in my case) talking to you about what you want done to your hair.

I get my head shaved about once a month. The place I typically go in Cary won’t take a straight razor to anyone’s head like the place I used to go in Burlington did, but they get pretty close with trim buzzers.

When I asked for my head shaved here in NYC, the girl verified I wanted it bald – and then buzzed-off all my hair (a great start). Then she pulled out what at first felt like a palm-sander (it was an electric shaver, but didn’t feel like one 🙂 ) and proceeded to remove the stubble on my head.

“Great!” I thought – a place that will give you a shave when you ask for one! But she wasn’t done.

After shaving my head completely (so well that I couldn’t tell where my hair had been), she asked if I wanted my beard trimmed. I figured, “why not – I’m here”, so I said yes.

She deftly took a straight razor to sharpen the edges of my “Abe Lincoln”, as a guy at work calls it, and then trimmed it down with a buzzer and attachment. This was great – now, in addition to my head having a look I like, my slightly-ragged beard was sharpened and smoothed. But she still wasn’t done.

Before she finished, she took that palm-sander, which I now knew to be an electric shaver, and gave me a full shave – other than the now-sculpted beard line.

Let me tell you: if you’ve never had someone else give you a shave on your face, it’s a pretty wierd sensation – but was just about perfect in just a couple minutes.

Start-to-finish, I was there for under 30 minutes. If you’re ever in Manhattan, strolling down the east side of 8th Ave from 40th towards 39th – and you need a haricut – head on upstairs to this true gem of the city.

email catharsis

I use Google’s free mail service. And each account gets the privilege of having over 6 gigabytes of storage, if needed.

However, I don’t use anywhere near that much.

I go through my old email about once a month and delete stuff I no longer need. For example, I’m on the TriLUG mailing list. But most of what’s on there has no bearing beyond a few months. So, every month I go through all my old email, and purge what’s more than a year old, unless I’ve specifically tagged it to hold onto longer.

Storage has gotten cheap, but it seems that no one has stopped to ask the question, “should I save it?”, they’ve merely answered the question, “can I save it?”

preparing for change (part the second)

As with knowledge capture, so must any successful organization pursue training.

Training need not be formal. It can be self-paced, on-the-job, as-you-go, or formal. I know that I have learned the most about the product I support not from formal training, but from actually supporting it.

Part of that is because we have had a tribal knowledge base, that needs to be captured. But part of it is because what we do varies from customer to customer, based on their environment.

Training must also be focused to the folks who will be undergoing it. Some people learn by doing, others by reading, others by hearing. An effective training program in bringing new people up to speed must, then, combine all of those methods. But training cannot last too long as individual sessions. It would be better to have 1-2 hours of training per day, a couple days a week for 3 months than to have it all in one week, 8 hours a day.

preparing for change (part the first)

I have recently been preparing to change jobs within my company from Support to Professional Services. This has lots of caveats, concerns, and corners to shine light into, alleviate, and circumvent.

The first thing that I did when I found out that I would, in fact, be able to move to ProServe from Support was to review all the cases I have had over the past year for commonalities, how-tos, and troubleshooting material. I have been working supporting a very complex server management product since January of last year, and I’ve had a lot of cases in that time.

One of the things I started to discover as I went through my case history was that customers end up having similar issues, but may report them with different symptoms. Like having the flu, where symptoms include fever, nausea, dehydration, dizziness, and more, one core problem can manifest itself in many ways.

So, in reviewing every case I have had in the last year, or at least those that are still ‘owned’ by my user, I was able to generate about 40 articles for other folks in Support to use in diagnosing similar issues in the past.

The core of any organization should always be knowledge transfer. In the company I work for, however, most of that knowledge transfer has been done verbally – so between all of us we know the product, but it’s tribal: if one person leaves, everything they know walks out the door with them.

Knowledge capture, then, must be a priority for any organization. Knowledge base articles, wiki pages, cheat-sheets on a shared server – something must be done to adequately snag everything those involved with the group both know and need to know.

Like the famous Microsoft developer’s conference video chants, “Developers, developers, developers, developers!”, so, too, must any organization chant, “Knowledge capture, knowledge capture, knowledge capture!”