Main menu:

Site search


April 2014
« Jan    



No More Developer Hell

OKAY, I’VE PUT UP WITH IT for a few years, trying to be a good soldier, tolerating the intolerable, learning the ropes, biding my time, swallowing my gall. No more interactive or web-developer crap for me, not unless the work conditions are very congenial, with good-looking and well-dressed people; and the “developer” side of the job has to be just an adjunct to the work, not the whole thing.

I just got out of a particularly ugly position at the magazine-publishing subsidiary of a megacorporation I worked for many years ago. It was fun for a year or two (this time around, I mean). Then it stopped being fun when the Good People left. Not coincidentally, the mutant who had been hired as the new ‘director’ of my department took a firm dislike to me. My impression was that this was because I was older, cuter, smarter, and had a far better background. Mr Mutant might have described it somewhat differently: I just didn’t fit in. I was not part of his swords-and-sorcery videogameboy subculture; I didn’t share his blue-collar computer-science mindset. A bigger factor was that our internal clients (or “editors,” as they are sometime called) did not like Mr Mutant. They wanted to get rid of him. Mr Mutant decided that their dislike of him was somehow due to me, and that together the editors and I were bad-mouthing him. So Mr Mutant took preemptive action. He harassed me for a few months, accusing me of obscure crimes, and telling all sorts of porkies to the HR functionaries. Then the day came when I was suddenly let go. The reason is unclear. I may have been fired, I may have been laid off; we may find out more when Arbitration kicks in.

AS I SAY, THE JOB WAS FUN (albeit stressful) for the first couple of years. We had some nice people and a nice collegial feeling. This wasn’t just luck. The higher-ups had made a huge outsourcing mistake a few years before, and now were struggling to climb out of it. Around 2007 they began to give half the development work to commoditized Asians. Some of the Asian workers were off in Hindustan; others got shipped in on work visas, and worked onsite, commuting in from nasty little accommodations an hour or two away in New Jersey. The Indian contractors were an inefficient solution to a problem that didn’t really exist. By using the Indians, we would save a bucket of money; that was the main idea. But in order to get that savings of (let’s say) $350,000 the company had to spend about $350,000 managing the Indians, and another million, perhaps, in loss of goodwill, institutional memory, and recruitment opportunities (because serious employees don’t want to work in a place where half the work is outsourced). Furthermore our Asians, whether onsite or offsite, couldn’t really communicate with our editors; they were nothing more than fungible pairs of hands, doing discrete tasks that had to be planned and delineated, and then thrown away and begun again. And again. And again.

The company learned its lesson and we gradually put together a nice in-house staff, including me. Then Mr Mutant comes in and reverses the process. He hires a half-dozen new developers. No Americans, no Caucasians, mostly third-worlders. The “good” people leave. Willy-nilly, we are soon back where we were two years before, wasting time and money. Morale goes down the drain. Last I heard, Mr Mutant was still in place, but he’ll undoubtedly be gone by the time you read this.

WHY DID I put myself put through all this? It’s not as though I couldn’t do a hundred other things, and do them better. I suppose it was like running the Boston Marathon: I easily qualified, but then found it wasn’t something I wished to do year after year. My bowels turn to jelly at the contemplation of ever doing it again.

So I should close down Developer Hell, where I’ve had to hide most of my posts anyway. Henceforth I’ll confine my workaday carping to something called

reddy kilowatt

Should be “Your Obedient Electric Servant.”

Heavens to Mugatroyd

tr11:23 AM

Howdy to you too!
tr4:34 PM
Is it working?


What’s It All About? the Crowds Asked

This was one of my “sandbox” WordPressies, put together back in 2008 to test out various video players and widgets. There isn’t much here, not for public consumption anyway.

Initially it was called Margotdarby at Work. When I was temping at DRAFTfcb Healthcare (doing pharmaceutical interactives and an odd “Augmented Reality” site) I snapped the building outside my window and made this “Developer Hell” header image.

That’s all. I wish I could make it more interesting, but then it would have to be on a serious site!

New Terror Stalks Celeb Circuit

I inadvertently clicked some button that attached this blog to my LinkedIn profile. This happened a couple of years ago, but I haven’t yet resolved how to deal with it. I could detach it from LinkedIn, but wouldn’t it be easier just to trash the whole blog? I mean, it’s not as though i don’t have 22 others. Should I fill it up with goody-two-shoes froth, announcing to the world that I’m normal as pie, even more normal and conventional than you are? Or should I say ‘fuck it’ and turn it into a quality, readable, organ of opinion? It’s a dilemma.

The trouble with putting real time and effort into this, even to the point of making a perfunctory update once a week or so, is that it’s hard to maintain enthusiasm when you have an audience of about three people, none of whom you know well. You end up commenting on occasional news stories, taking one cockeyed viewpoint or another in hopes of being witty, and then you forget to update for a few months, and when you next see your remarks the links are dead and your opinions have grown cobwebs. What were you so lathered about? What were you pretending to be lathered about?

This is a syndrome I’ve seen all over the web. It seems especially to affect early adopters, people who were doing quasi-blogs as far back as 1995. These are the people for whom the process is more important than the end product.

totie, not misha

Hello, sailor!

One of these folks, whom I vaguely recall from Usenet days, is a querulous fat woman who creates and abandons blogs like bird droppings, all over the net. The old ones, built in the days before anti-spam plugins, are chuggy-jam full of comments (I’m talking thousands here) offering discount watches, Viagra, and mail-order nookie. The dead blogs always have a generic, off-the-shelf design theme, and a cloyingly obscure name (‘dark matter’, ‘heartbalm jelly’, ‘hippo dignity’) that suggests a derivation from video games or youth-oriented motion pictures.

She’s so much like me (except for weight, appearance, background, etc.) it makes me sick.

The Great Impostor

To the Algonquin for a lunch in the Round Table Room today. A dinky little place, the Algonquin, full of dinky undistinguished-looking people, but that is part of its appeal. My event today was a literary “MeetUp” group that a rotund little lady put together in impromptu fashion, mainly by contacting her Twitter pals. I’m not sure how I got on her list. Anyway, there were 60 or 70 of us, mostly women, mostly Caucasian, mostly middle-aged. Arriving just before luncheon was served, I got put at one of the outlier tables, boasting several younger-than-average people and two women of color, one of them in a wheelchair.

For the main course we could choose between mustard salmon en croute and chicken paillard. Most people had the salmon. It wasn’t that great.

“This is what it’s like when you get old, I guess,” I remarked to the young publishing bunny on my left. “Lunch with lots of women and hardly any men.”

“That’s the publishing world,” she cheerfully replied. “Mostly women.” (Is this because it doesn’t pay for shit, or because it’s so femmed up that any male in publishing feels he should be a fag?)

One of the published authors at the table was a lady diesel engineer who has piloted both a tugboat and riverboat. She definitely had the most interesting story to tell, though like a tugboat her tale was modest in size and kept close to home. The one male at the table kept urging her to read a really ripping book he’d picked up recently. Life on the Mississippi, by Mr. Mark Twain. Tugboat Annie made a note.

Me. I explained I did a little copyediting for Penguin Putnam, but that paid little under the best of circumstances, so mostly I worked in ad agencies as a Flash developer. Amazingly, most of my companions seemed to know what that was. So I warmed to the theme: I am the world’s worst Flash developer! Yes, ladies and gent. I get jobs and then lose them when my employers discover my incompetence. This usually takes a few weeks. Fortunately there are many many ad agencies doing pharma Flash development, and they can’t afford to be too picky.

The colored woman in the wheelchair and the PR bunny were wide-eyed at my brazenness. “How do you get away with it? Don’t they test you or anything when you start?”

“Test! Who has time to test? Ha ha! You know, this is a pretty good idea for a book!”

And they all agreed that yes indeed it was.

It Rains

It rains again.

The Polarizer. Funniest AS3 App I’ve Seen All Day.

Walker's 2004

Walker's 2004

It takes your excellent (or not-so-good) images and turns them into Polaroid-style images circa 1978.

Immensely silly. Extremely useful if you need to waste a whole morning. Requires Flash Player 10. From OneByOneDesign, I think.

Google’s YouTube JavaScript Player API—How It Works

Matthew Richmond of The Chopping Block has just posted a very useful article on the “Chromeless Player” that shows your .flv-format videos at your own site or on YouTube. The player was written in ActionScript 2, but nowadays is asked to perform in an ActionScript 3 environment. AS2 and AS3 are not compatible on a code level. The workaround: they pass information to each other via JavaScript.

Matthew’s article describes the process, gives you do-it-yourself instructions, pastable code, and access to necessary source files.

The basic idea is essentially the same as that used in swfObject, the snippet of js/html code that is now the standard for inserting Flash .swf files into standard HTML web pages. Conveniently enough, the creator of swfObject, Geoff Stearns, now runs YouTube development for Google. Even less coincidentally, he used to work with Matthew Richmond at The Chopping Block. It is a very small world.

This Much I Know

Twelve years of Internet and six (?) of Wikipedia have made me very flabby mentally.

Once upon a time, if I wanted to know something, I would gladly scour libraries’ card catalogs for many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore. Now I just Google, and if it’s not there…it’s not there.

Nevertheless there are at least a couple of things NOT found in Google or Wikipedia or YouTube:

1) The mid-1950s M&Ms TV commercial. I know I’ve seen this, years afterwards, possibly at the Museum of Broadcasting.  It starts with a live-action shot of a little girl with a dirty face. A male voiceover goes, “Susie! You’re a chocolate mess! You should eat M&M’s chocolate candies!” Switch to an animated cartoon of the talking Plain and Peanut candies. The Peanut is lying in a chaise longue by a swimming pool, sunning herself and talking in a Southern Belle voice. “I’m an M&M’s Peanut. Fresh roasted to a golden tan, then drenched in creamy milk chocolate–” whereupon she jumps off a diving board into the milk-chocolate swimming pool.

2) Conjecturism. This was a somewhat cranky mail-order art-history course, advertised in places like the NY Herald Tribune Book Review, circa 1960. “Don’t Learn About Art This Way!” was the hed, above a Fitzpatrick-style heavy-ink-style editorial cartoon showing the rear view of a big thug wielding a club before a cowering little man and saying, “Now look, I’m an Authority on Art, so you better listen to me–or else.” The National Lampoon or some other publication did a parody of this back in the 70s, when it was still fondly remembered. But you can’t find any reference to Conjecturism on the Net these days. At least I can’t.

Possibly 1) was plunked down the memory hole for reasons of taste and political correctness. I’ve written the M&M’s people for the whereabouts of the commercial, but have received no reply. Even the Prelinger Archives have no record of it. But what happened to 2)? Surely Conjecturism was no flakier than Esthetic Realism.

Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice.

*** ***

POSTSCRIPT: Well whaddya know? I Google again…and there…in the December 1964 issue of Commentary magazine…in amongst the ads for self-help books, flash cards, and Bank Leumi…we have an elaborate two-page spread for Conjecturism! Alas, the double-truck does not include the thug with the club. But fascinating.

Mr. Theodore L. Shaw, it would appear, had a certain amount of money and an unlimited grudge against some long-departed art-history teacher he crossed swords with around 1923. Surely there’s a book in this.