Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The blog is dead - long live the new blog.

And thus I bid a fond farewell to Blogger.

The new blog is live over at http://kevinmatheny.com/wordpress. It's prettier than this one. No offense intended, Blogger. Thanks for introducing me to blogging, and for making the process easy and painless. And for being so darn well-indexed by Google, which while unsurprising was nonetheless welcome.

See you over there.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Upgrading my web presence.

Yes, I registered kevinmatheny.com, yay for personal branding on the Internet. 

I'm working on the blog. I am not entirely sure that I need a new blog, and I still have it in the lunarpages equivalent of the basement workshop, trying to figure out how to get it configured the way I want. But I am liking Wordpress, and things look promising - a lot more control than Blogger offers, with concomitant risk of b0rking your install and having to start over. 

Once I get it presentable, I need to move all of my historical posts over there. Assuming I don't break it again and have to start over. 

But the work is underway. 

Also to come: some kind of home page. And a wiki, ideally Confluence - 10-user licenses are $10. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Comment spam sucks

I guess I should take it as some kind of sign that I've arrived. I got a wave of comment spam rich with names of and links to gaming sites. That's gaming as in the computer type, which is at least on-topic for me, if not for the post they were attached to.

So I've turned on Captcha and enabled comment moderation. Sign of the times, I guess.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Moving (back) to Mac

So my work laptop died. It wasn't a particularly surprising death - the signs were there if you chose to look for them, and I've reached the stage in life where I've dealt with this before, so the grieving process is familiar now. Did I say grieving? I think I meant backing up re-installing.

I did decide to make it significantly more complicated this time, as I'm changing platforms. After 10 years away, I'm going back to using a Mac as my work machine. I took a hard look at my options, and decided that I want to be compatible with the development teams I'm working with, and the best tools for doing the kind of work I am doing (e-business architecture) are Mac tools - Omnifocus and Omnigraffle are on my short list.

Also, it seems that while I have been away the maddening process of managing extensions has been done away with, what with the switch to Unix under the hood.

I'm a bit apprehensive - I'll be learning new UI conventions, figuring out which open source software is the best, and lugging around a much heavier laptop.

I'm also excited - I love learning new things, and I'm really looking forward to getting back to Mac.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Design patterns that do not exist, but should: Let The Wookiee Win

I like design patterns. They're an interesting and useful way to store a fairly large set of information about how to do something in a few words. Mike Nygard, in Release It!, uses patterns and anti-patterns to talk about things to do and to watch out for, and I found it to be an excellent way to remember what to do and not do.

Playing around with language is something I enjoy, and I have a talent for remembering movie quotes. For whatever reason, some movie quotes strike me as capturing design or problem-solving patterns. Thus I begin what may turn out to be a series of posts, about Design Patterns That Do Not Exist, But Should.

Let The Wookiee Win
I can't find a link for this on Youtube - guess Lucasfilm's legal staff is earning their keep. In the original Star Wars, R2D2 is playing a chess-like game with Chewbacca. Chewie doesn't like one of R2's moves, leading to this exchange:
C3P0: He made a fair move. Screaming about it won't help you.
Han: Let him have it. It's not wise to upset a Wookiee.
C3PO: But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid.
Han: That's 'cause droids don't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookiees are known to do that.
C3PO: I see your point, sir. I suggest a new strategy, Artoo. Let the Wookiee win.

Let The Wookiee Win is not about conceding the game, it's about redefining victory conditions for yourself in light of new information. The point of using it as a design pattern is that you should be alert to information that changes the nature of the game; there's not much point in winning the battle if you lose the war.

You should Let The Wookiee Win when you come into possession of new information that changes your understanding of the consequences of achieving your current goal. Play the meta-game, not the game at hand.

- Kevin

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I am become Twitter, destroyer of long-form blogging

Twitter is pretty darn cool. The ability to publish brief updates to anyone who cares to receive them is a neat thing. I've been using it for months now, and am learning to use it as a kind of zeitgeist tool - I follow enough people that I can pick up on stories and trends via twitter rather than through other means.

But I'm finding that it just destroys blogging as a communications form for me. I'm an infrequent blogger anyway, for a variety of reasons, and giving me an outlet that forces me to be pithy and is expressly interpersonal and transient just encourages that.

Blog posts, for me, are something I craft. When I write anything longer than a couple of sentences, I revise and rethink, going over the sequence of things to make sure that it flows and is readable. I don't do that with Twitter (at least, I don't do it much) because there just isn't enough space to worry about it.

I don't think this affects everyone; I suspect it hits those who are primarily social bloggers much more than those who are journalists or creative writers.

- Kevin

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Okay, so what *is* an API?

This is an excellent question, and one I get asked a fair amount. The not-very-useful answer is "it's an Application Programming Interface," which tells you what it's an acronym for but not what that means. If you're not familiar with the term, the words are just a different kind of meaningless noise. 

If you want to read the Wikipedia entry on APIs, knock yourself out. You might also find the entry on Web Services interesting. I'll wait here. 

Done? Okay, welcome back. There's a lot of really dense information over there, and I find it useful to fasten on two key concepts: One, an API is a way for computers to talk to one another, and two, a web service is (kind of) a web site with the skin taken off. 

Remix, for example (hey, what other example am I going to use?), replicates pretty much what you can get from BestBuy.com on the "product detail page" for a given item. Here's an Insignia TV at BestBuy.com:
And here's the same TV in the Remix API:

Notice that pretty much all of the information that is in the pretty BestBuy.com version is also in the texty Remix version? That's because Remix is more or less just BestBuy.com with the skin off. 

So why do you care? What's the point of taking the skin off a web site? Well, when you do that, it becomes possible to put a different skin on. For example, in the sidebar of this blog is a list of games, showing names, images and prices. All of that information is coming from Remix; I just put the list of SKU IDs into a control panel and it created a chunk of javascript that does the work. 

So what you're seeing is information from BestBuy.com, but not at BestBuy.com. When prices change on BestBuy.com, they'll change in that sidebar gadget. 

What do we hope to get out of this? Something cool that we can't imagine. Yellow Tag Productions, our internal video production team, did a great video that summarizes the thinking behind this and the potential we see, called "Open for Business." It's worth 4:50 of your day, I think. Of course, I would, since I'm in it. Give it a try. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Affiliating myself

Had an excellent meeting at work early this week and discovered Things From Another World (www.tfaw.com), which looks like a most excellent place to buy some of things I find fascinating. Yeah, I'm talking about comic books. 

Turns out they have an affiliate program, which is nice. I am not sure if they are targeting the long tail, which is where this tiny little self-indulgence belongs. Their process seems to assume that I own the domain where my site is located. Since I'm on Blogger, that is very much not the case. 

They do offer me an alternative method of demonstrating my ownership of this blog, though. I cam put this into a post:
Confirmation Code: GNDFMCN16321763

There you go, guys. Sign me up!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bridges to the Future

Hey, my article is live, and I didn't blog about it. Never has the subtitle of my blog been so eerily accurate. 

It's aimed at non-technical people working in businesses that use technology, in particular those that are dependent on technology for their success. If you're working for a company that needs to do technology projects, it's worth reading. And then printing out and showing to your senior management. :)

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Sometimes you just get lucky, I guess. Case in point: I've been invited to write an article for Business Week. This is utterly relevant to what I am doing right now, and yet is completely random. One of my friends at work (Erik Olson, @EAEO) twittered that he recommended following @johnabyrne, Editor-in-Chief of BusinessWeek. I did so. Turns out I was John's 2,500th Twitter follower, and as a result, he offered to let me write the article as a reward.

It's such an amazing coincidence. My project (Best Buy Remix, http://remix.bestbuy.com) is gathering momentum inside Best Buy and we are working on getting out the word externally. We just brought on a community manager to help us reach out to external development communities and take care of the folks using our portal. We've been talking to PR and Marketing about how to reach out. And then this opportunity drops into my lap.

Sometimes you just get lucky, indeed.

- Kevin