June 20th, 2008


For those who like watching slow-motion train wrecks...

... I commend following the TechCrunch coverage of Yahoo right now. Pretty much everyone heard about the MicroHoo fiasco over the past couple of months, as Microsoft tried to buy Yahoo. But less covered in the major media is the fact that, now that the buyout has clearly failed, the company appears to be collapsing at the top. TC is keeping a list of executives leaving the company, and it's astonishing -- at this point, they're losing people nearly every day. Those leaving are scattering all over the industry (including, for instance, their Senior Director of Int'l Business, who is moving over to become the VP and GM of LiveJournal). The founders of Flikr and del.icio.us have quit in the past couple of days.

It's amazing, and rather sad -- clearly the end of an era. We'll see where things go for Yahoo, but at best the company is being shaken to its core. It's a remarkable object lesson in the importance of morale, and how quickly things can disintegrate when the employees stop beliving in the firm and its top management...

A Week of Unintended Consequences

One aspect of my job, pretty much for as long as I've been programming, has been Systems Integration. While it's sometimes described as a specialty unto itself, the fact is that it's a routine part of the day for most people building interesting real-world software. Making things talk to other things is a constant necessity. Normally that doesn't phase me, but it does have one problem: whenever you replace a part in this contraption you're building, other parts tend to break. This week has been a doozy in that regard.

It started off with an apparently minor issue. I was implementing the "catch up" feature, and discovered that the dialog boxes (which I hadn't used much before) didn't quite work in the client packages I was using. Well, said I, that's not all that surprising -- I'm currently using old beta versions of those packages. They've finally gotten to releases, so I may as well upgrade. But of course, in between the fairly old beta I was using and the release, there were *loads* of changes, so as soon as I changed versions, the CommYou client no longer worked. So a day or two got lost in the cracks, bringing everything up to date.

(Just to add insult to injury, it didn't fix the original problem. Turned out that I had been missing a component all along, but of course Javascript doesn't helpfully say, "This code is missing, dumbass". There are days I hate Javascript. And then there are days I *really* hate Javascript.)

Just around the time that was fixed, out comes Firefox 3. Having heard all sorts of yummy things about it, I upgraded my work laptop. That actually went pretty smoothly, until this afternoon when I had the sinking realization that there was surely no chance that my test harness (built on an old version of Selenium) would work -- I've been in this business long enough to know when too much has changed to reasonably hope for success. Sure enough, it crashed hard before even opening the browser. So this afternoon's project has been digging into the Selenium website, to see what it says about Firefox 3. The extra hour of reading was enough to convince me that simply upgrading to the current beta of *that* wouldn't be good enough (because there's a critical bug that was logged after the beta release). So now I'm running on a nightly build of Selenium. Seems to function, but does nothing to comfort me.

Oh, well. Things seem to be basically working again, and I feel much more up-to-date. But it's all been a good reminder of why some people find Systems Integration a bit daunting...

Rules of Waterbearing

In light of the Board's proposed deregulation of waterbearing, one of my friends in someone else's journal asked what the previous regulations had been. Having answered her there, it occurs to me that this would be a public service to list those rules here, just so everyone knows what's being changed.

The rules are very simple:
  • The water bottle must be properly wrapped in duct tape.

  • You must also be wrapped in duct tape.

  • Note that the duct tape rules are, of course, specifically for water bottles to be used in heavy list. Water bottles for fencing must be wrapped in three layers of trigger cloth, with non-overlapping seams.

  • The water bottle must be constructed of at least 16-gauge steel, or other materials that are demonstrably of similar strength.

  • Water bottles constructed of chain mail are not permitted.

  • You must not bear water in an offensive manner.

  • Squirting water at fighters from a distance is not permitted. However, there is a new experimental "water balloon" program that is exploring this; contact your Kingdom Water Marshall if you wish to participate.

  • Before taking the field as a waterbearer, you must be authorized, by demonstrating your skill in front of three Water Marshalls.

  • If you want to bear *Gatorade*, that is of course a separate authorization.
You're welcome.

(Can you tell it's been a long week? I knew you could...)