Office Life Archives

February 14, 2012

How to run a meeting

Jeff Atwood outlines some tips for running a successful meeting which I think are worth reproducing here, though I'm starting with the ones I agree with:

  1. Every meeting should have a clearly defined mission statement.
    Absolutely correct, every meeting should have a clearly defined set of goals, and they should be clearly stated, both in the invitation and at the start of the meeting itself.
  2. Do your homework before the meeting.
    Not only will you look good if you're prepared for the meeting, but you'll be helping everyone else be more productive.
  3. Summarize to-dos at the end of the meeting.
    This is as important as stating the goals. Someone should verbally summarize the action items and conclusions from the discussion.
The ones I don't quite agree with?
  1. No meeting should ever be more than an hour.
    I certainly agree that the shorter a meeting is, the better. But some meetings, especially brainstorming meetings or project reviews, are going to take longer than an hour. There's no reason to set an arbitrary duration that's called "too long".
  2. Make it optional.
    I don't see how it's practical to make every attendee optional. People should still feel free to decline an invitation, but sometimes you need to make it clear just who you can't have a meeting without.

October 12, 2011

Boston CFUG's October meeting: "Continuous Integration with Jenkins, ANT, and MXUnit"

This month we've got a great presentation lined up for the Boston area ColdFusion User Group on Wednesday, October 26th, 6:00pm: Continuous Integration with Jenkins, ANT, and MXUnit, a talk given by the always-entertaining Marc Esher. Here's what Marc has to say about his agenda:

"Perhaps you have some unit tests. Maybe even an ANT build file that runs your tests. And maybe even a build file that packages or deploys your application. But how do you orchestrate those separate pieces into a symphony of automation? Continuous Integration, of course.

Imagine: you have tests. A Teammate commits code to source control. Minutes later, you and your teammate get an email indicating that tests are now failing.

Imagine: you commit code. Minutes later, all tests run. All tests pass. Zip files are built and are ready for deployment. Or code was automatically pushed to any accessible environment. All without your intervention."

In this session, Marc will demonstrate how to use the open source Jenkins Continuous Integration server, together with ANT and MXUnit, to create a top-notch automated test and build system for your ColdFusion applications.

The meeting will be at 6:00pm at the Sun Life offices in Wellesley. You can RSVP at Drinks at Dunn-Gaherin's afterward!

August 2, 2011

Looking to hire junior- to mid-level web developer!

Ping IdentityWould you like to work for a fun, successful, and growing company from either Boston or Denver? Are you a good problem-solver who's not afraid to learn new technologies, APIs, and languages in order to complete a project? Then I'd like to talk to you.

At Ping Identity, our company has been growing non-stop for the last two years, and the scale and number of web projects has grown along with our headcount. So, we need a third web developer to join our team. Bring your current skills, and we'd be happy to teach you new ones as well. Benefits are great, the work environment is fun (though you're able to work from home two to three days a week if you like), and the bonus structure is mighty fine.

If you're interested, please send your resume directly to me so that I can personally promote it to HR. For specifics, please check out our job posting for the web developer position:

June 24, 2011

Findings from the ALA 2010 Web Design Survey

The results are finally in for the ALA 2010 Web Design Survey. Hopefully some of you who were generous enough to take the time to fill out the survey, which I help promote since A List Apart's survey is the only chance for all of us to examine our own working demographic. It's really fascinating stuff: you can compare yourself to your peers across the metrics of working hours, age, salary, title, etc. Be sure to take a look.

October 21, 2010

Boston CFUG October Meeting Review

I want to give a shout out to Vertabase's Mark Phillips, who gave a fabulous presentation on project management to the Boston CFUG last night. I often find myself wishing I could manage the people who work with me on projects; but short of that becoming reality, a more realistic hope is that the people I work with learn more about project management themselves. Some of Mark's most memorable points:

  • Project management is not operations: projects are temporary efforts, with defined start and end dates, to deliver something unique. A project should not be an ongoing, unending, maintain-and-upgrade, keep-the-lights-on constant effort. That's what your operations group is for.
  • Don't do work just to make the client happy: do work to achieve the client's end goal, and they'll be happier as a final result.
  • Designate a project manager and a project plan: have a clear idea of who is acting in the project manager role, and make sure you have a project plan with clear ideas of how to operate.
  • Warning signs of failure: I really loved these, not only because they were shorty and pithy, but because they were displayed in a font face that reminded me of the demotivational posters from Despair, Inc.:
    • Aggressive Schedule = Certain Failure.
    • Lost of Change Requests = No Clear Plan = Certain Failure.
    • If You Are 20% or More Behind Schedule, You Will Never Catch Up. Ever.

September 30, 2009

Job postings at Ping Identity: Waltham, MA, and Denver, CO

Two new job postings have come up at my company, Ping Identity. We're a strong, growing company with Fortune 500 clients and venture backing from both coasts. Contact me directly with your resume if you're interested in either of the positions below:

System Administrator, PingConnect
Summary: As a SaaS Systems Administrator at Ping Identity you will provide in-depth technical support and effective complex problem solving for a wide variety of infrastructure and applications related to the PingConnect service offering. VM, VPN, security, and network design is a must. Must be expert with IPsec and SSL VPN technologies. This position entails network and system design, implementation and maintenance. This is an on-call position that requires support and flexibility at a variety of hours.
Reporting to: Senior Director, Operations
Location: Waltham, MA or Denver, CO

Technical Product Manager
Summary: As a Technical Product Manager at Ping Identity, you will engage with customers to understand detailed use cases and drive requirements in to the Ping Identity product planning process for both PingFederate, Ping Identity's flagship on-premise software, and PingConnect, our expanding on-demand server. You will have the opportunity to interact with key stakeholders inside and outside of the company with a primary focus on the technical aspects of Ping Identity's product offering. You will also be one of the primary technical interfaces for third party technology and SaaS partners, understanding key integration points and combined value propositions.
Reporting to: Director of Product Management
Location: Denver, CO

Where to stay in Denver

The Magnolia Hotel is my favorite in Denver. It easily has more age, flair, and character than the other chain hotels I've stayed in. The elevators don't always run so fast, but they handle it with humor-- a plaque in each of them reads "Our elevators are old, sometimes slow, occasionally fast, and often creaky."

Oh, and the staff hold the doors open for you when you enter or leave. You won't find that behavior at the Residence Inn.

December 10, 2008

What makes the best tech door prizes?

Last night we had a fun Boston CFUG meeting where Ike Dealey spoke about his onTap framework. As the co-manager with Brian Rinaldi, I am in charge of promoting meeting attendance, so I raffled off a digital photo frame as the door prize.

Getting to pick out the door prizes is something that I enjoy, since I get to indulge my own preferences for what makes a desirable prize. But I'm well aware that not everyone else might share my taste, so I wanted to ask the opinion of the community at large: what products or services would make attractive, desirable door prizes, enough to make you more interested in attending a user group meeting? Would it be something silly like the Airzooka air gun? A cool piece of electronics such as a digital camcorder? The now-ubiquitous iPod? The only guidelines are that it would need to be widely popular, and priced less than $100.

Please leave an idea via the comments below. I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts. If enough products are brought up, then I might put together a survey where everyone can rank the best ones.

November 2, 2008

CF at Dreamforce

dreamforce.jpgToday I'm in San Francisco at the Dreamforce conference, which is Salesforce's annual conference. I'm starting with an all-day session called Visualforce for Developers, where I hope to learn more about how to write native Apex code that will run right in the Salesforce application. So far, I've only been able to call iframes which call ColdFusion pages to give people access to custom features. (This via URL-based "s-controls", which are a Salesforce-approved way to call external code.) The CF code, while running on its own server, does interact with Salesforce via Tom de Manincor's wonderful salesForceCFC.

I'll be very interested to see, as I learn native Salesforce APIs such as Apex code or Visualforce, just how I choose to interact with our ColdFusion system. I'm particularly interested in learning how to write more of the display code directly in Salesforce while having the web service calls go from Salesforce to our own systems-- the exact opposite of what we have now. As I learn more in the next few days, I'll be posting what I learn.

October 8, 2008

Mnah mnah!

A co-worker threw in a "Mnah mnah!" at me after I started whistled the melody of the song ("dee-do, be-doo-be"), prompting a little trip down memory lane. It was first used in the mainstream U.S. market in The Muppet Show, and a quick search of YouTube found the video for us. Enjoy.

Continue reading "Mnah mnah!" »

October 6, 2008

Pogue's Tech Tips for Basic Computer Users

David Pogue just posted a great list of tech tips for the basic computer user. The only one I would have added would be the key-commands for a screen grab. Here are a few highlights:

Continue reading "Pogue's Tech Tips for Basic Computer Users" »

September 24, 2008

Advertising jobs in Boston/NYC

My wife's company, advertising firm Hill Holiday, is growing its accounts left and right and has several open positions. Cool office space, too. If you're interested in having your resume referred by an insider, drop me a line.

Boston or New York:
- Senior Developer
- Developer

- Tech Lead
- Quality Assurance Manager
- Senior Producer
- Producer
- Art Director
- Flash Developer (responsible for creating and maintaining Flash projects for websites, display advertising and applications)

September 15, 2008

Is it fair to test a candidate during an interview?

A recent posting on Slashdot titled Testing IT Professionals on Job Interviews? was similar to a question posed to me by my manager. After I had forwarded him the test I was planning to use for candidates for our web developer position, he cautioned me that he thought it was possible that someone with years of experience might just be a little insulted at having to take a skills test. I understand that thought completely, and I would never want to insult someone in that manner-- but I just don't think that a test would or should be a problem for a candidate. From my perspective, any smart employer will want to measure just how good of a developer you are, and I would really hope that they've applied the same care in selecting the other developers I'd be working with.

So I want to pose a question to the rest of the community: do you think it's fair to test a candidate during an interview? Oh, and here's the manner in which I apply the test: I always tell the candidate before they come in that I'm going to be testing them; and, I let them browse the web during the test for solutions as long as they're not copying-and-pasting the answers-- after all, I look up other people's tips and solutions myself several times a day. As long as a developer can produce good code in good time during the test, I don't necessarily care whether they wrote it all from scratch or had every answer in their head.

What do you think?

(Edit: Someone made the good suggestion that I post the skills test that I use. Here's the web developer skills test that I use.)

August 20, 2008

Web Developer position at Ping Identity, Inc.

I'm glad to say that we're increasing our web development efforts here at Ping Identity's Waltham office, and so are looking for another web developer to join the company. Ping is a fantastic place to work-- we use the latest hardware and software, have VC funds from big names on both coasts, and experienced management. The office, at 1000 Winter Street in Waltham, overlooks the reservoir and is a really fun place to work. For instance, we have lunch brought in every once in a while; stock the fridge with snacks and beer; and a few VPs and I go running twice a week over lunch. We tend to work from home two days a week, which helps to make for a good work/life balance. Most importantly, we're a young firm that's well positioned for major growth in the federated identity and secure single sign-on space.

The person we're looking for can be anywhere from senior to junior level as long as you have some web development skills with ColdFusion. Familiarity with Eloqua (a lead management service) and Salesforce

(customer relationship management) will be bonuses, since we're going to have this developer interact with these systems. Anyone who's interested in finding out more should contact me directly. Here are the details:


  • Working with the all Ping Identity business units, establish website design standards, information architecture and user interfaces which define the internet presence for Ping Identity.
  • Provide strategic and tactical planning for website investments and development priorities.
  • Maintain and execute against a dynamic queue of web site modifications and change requests.
  • Integrate surrounding applications and technologies including Eloqua,, Atlas, and Google Adwords.
  • Provide alternative designs for requested changes and enforce design standards through these alternatives.
  • Monitor and provide regular reporting on our websites for performance, stability, quality control and improvement opportunities.
  • 3 to 7+ years industry experience website development and design
  • Minimum 3+ years strong and recent ColdFusion development
  • Minimum 3+ years DHTML/JavaScript/CSS development
  • Strong experience with object oriented design/development.
  • Strong experience with RDBMS systems (SQLServer)
  • Strong experience with Web Services
  • Strong working knowledge of browser-neutral, JavaScript, CSS, ColdFusion, Commonspot, XHTML, HTML, DHTML, XML, XSLT, RSS, Flash, Actionscript Excellent communication skills and general ability to communicate effectively with internal customers
  • Power user knowledge of Eloqua and Salesforce a strong plus.
  • Understanding of AJAX, Web 2.0 concepts, and Server-Side scripting
  • Thorough knowledge of web standards, such as W3C Standards and 508 Compliance.
  • Deep knowledge of website Information Architecture and User Interface design
  • Able to take ownership of a project from start to finish
  • Strong attention to detail and ability to manage multiple simultaneous work streams
  • Ability to assemble business requirements, conduct effective project meetings and project management.

June 11, 2008

Getting Windows applications into your MacOSX dock

I just discovered a neat little trick with VMWare on my MacBook Pro. I still need to QA against IE/Win, and I still love using Homesite+. Up until now, to use either of them I've launched VMWare, launched those programs, then switched to Unity mode. The next day, I would have to do the same thing all over again. But with less than 5 minutes of work, you can get your favorite old Windows apps to appear on and launch from the Dock. It works like this: if you switch your Windows VM to "Unity" mode so that the applications you have open appear each in their own window, their icons will appear on the right side of the Dock (note the Windows Remote Desktop and Firefox icons):


Now if you click-and-drag those icons from the right side of the Dock to the left side, they'll stay there permanently (note the Internet Explorer and Homesite+ icons):


And whenever you click on these icons, VMWare will start up and bring up the application for you-- in Unity mode! It's just like... no, it really is having your favorite Windows apps available to you just like any other MacOS app. Awesomeness, no extra charge.

April 23, 2008

New job today

I'm in a new position today, as Senior Web Developer at the leading secure single sign-on provider, PingIdentity. They've set me up with a sweet 30" Macintosh HD screen, plus a nice, light MacBook Pro. The fridge is even stocked with Cokes. I think I may just sleep here.

April 15, 2008

Unit testing (and beers) with the Boston CFUG

If you're in the Boston area and didn't make it to the ColdFusion User's Group meeting tonight on unit testing with MXUnit, you missed a good time. Marc Esher and Bill Shelton gave us an intro to unit testing, and a few of us went out afterwards to Dunn-Gaherin's to toss a few back with our visiting ColdFusion evangelist, Adam Lehman. Adam kindly said a few words about Adobe's current efforts with CF, and also raffled off a copy of ColdFusion Server.

Be sure to make it to the next meeting, when yours truly will be presenting on version-tracking your code with Subversion. I'll be raffling off a free copy of Subversion. ;)

P.S. So that no one misses the joke, then shows up expecting a chance at free software and gets angry at me: I'm kidding. Subversion is already a free download.

March 28, 2008

Are You Taking Advantage of Web 2.0?

So asks David Pogue of the New York Times, who describes the benefits of Web 2.0 as offering "a direct, more trusted line of communications than anything that came before it."

Around my office we have discussions about just what "Web 2.0" means. I usually interpret it in a more technical, feature-oriented fashion, saying that it applies to sites that have near-real-time interactivity with a web site, using AJAX to make themselves appear to work more like a desktop application than a page-request-based website. My boss thinks of Web 2.0 as meaning that a site has a user community and user-contributed content. There probably isn't just one meaning to the term, anyway. But Pogue gets the point-- it's no use talking about what Web 2.0 means. You just want to concentrate on what benefits it has to your company:

"When a company embraces the possibilities of Web 2.0, though, ... it [will] gain trust, goodwill and positive attention. You'll put a human face on your company. And you'll learn stuff about your customers that you wouldn't have discovered any other way."

Completely true. And here are other ways that your web site reflects the character of your company:

  • The design: does this company have enough money to afford a good designer?

  • The copywriting and layout: is the company smart and detail-oriented?

  • The server uptime: is this company reliable?

  • Graceful degradation: does the company think about its customers and their needs?

  • Snazzy, cool AJAX features: does the company willing to explore new ideas?

  • Splash page: is this company so into its branding and so clueless about what users really want to know that it throws a useless splash page in their way?

March 5, 2008

How does your company handle customer account security?

Yesterday an issue came up at the office that I wanted to ask the rest of the community about: we had a person call in, identifying themselves as being from a large law firm, asking for the names of those people from her firm who were signed up for our services. My company offers web-based financial services by subscription, so it's not at all uncommon for us to have customers from financial and legal firms, and to get calls from them asking about their accounts. Sometimes we even have a relationship with one person at a company who doles out bulk-rate subscriptions for our services to their colleagues.

What was notable about this caller, however, was that we didn't have a prior relationship established with this person or company, and we really had no way of verifying that they were who they said they were. My colleague who was taking the call put this person on hold and asked me whether he should grant this person's request; my answer was to have him say that while he could tell the caller how many people from her company were signed up with us, we were not allowed to give her their names. We did offer to contact them on her behalf to ask them to get in touch with her.

These kinds of calls, while not frequent, are somewhat common. For instance, we get secretaries calling on behalf of busy lawyers, or the folks from the finance department who've noticed our company's name as a charge on the company credit card and want to know who placed it. I'm sure this happens to other web-based businesses as well. So my question to the rest of you is this: how do you handle requests for customer account information? Do you take any measures to verify that the caller's stated identity is authentic? If a third party calls and asks for information about other people, how do you handle it?

January 22, 2008

Which is the best feed reader?

I'm starting to keep up with the blogs of more and more people these days, so I figure that it's time I get some help keeping track of all of them. I've put on my bookmarks toolbar, and while it's a great aggregator (props to Ray!) I keep wondering whether I've missed anything that's fallen off the short list it creates. I think maybe I ought to use a reader that will help me track a large number of blogs and mark whether or not I've read any given posting. What does everybody else prefer to use? Google Reader? FeedDemon? How exactly do you use them to keep up with the massive number of good posts out there?

April 24, 2007

A List Apart 2007 Web Design Survey

i-took-the-2007-survey.gifI just finished responding to A List Apart's Web Design Survey 2007 (their first in an annual series, they say), and I encourage you to do the same. If you don't read A List Apart, you should-- it's a fantastic resource on coding and publishing. From their site:
People who make websites have been at it for more than a dozen years, yet almost nothing is known, statistically, about our profession. Who are we? Where do we live? What are our titles, our skills, our educational backgrounds? Where and with whom do we work? What do we earn? What do we value?

Itís time we learned the answers to these and other questions about web design.

April 6, 2007

Tech Interviews

After reading Cameron Moll's posting Surviving the all-day tech interview, I have to give a sigh of relief that I've never had to go through one myself-- although I can see why they'd give you a pretty good feel for how a potential candidate would really perform during a stressful day on the job.

I think that for development positions, though, it's a little easier to really see how well they know their stuff: I just give them a test where they have to write code samples. And while I require them to write their own code from scratch, I don't expect people to come up with every solution themselves. During the test, I let people look up whatever they'd like from reference books or the web. After all, it's what I do all day. All I care about, in the end, is that they can create good code in good time-- it doesn't matter to me whether they think it up themselves or look it up somewhere else.