Sunday, November 04, 2007

Predicting the Future with the Past

Yep, I'm amazingly still alive! Things have been relentless at school. I have two tests next Friday, a project due Monday, and a crazy homework and project due a week from Tuesday. It looks like by the time I can breathe it'll be Thanksgiving! My girl has been keeping me going though, and I did end up taking the offer with Amazon so I'll be going there next July. I look forward to it and still don't regret the decision. I'm only sad when I think of being there alone, but I take solace in how beautiful the city is and how satisfying work was there. Speaking of Amazon, catch the new layout now that it's actually out? I love how much more dynamic the pages got, and I like that many toys and games now have videos with them. Very neat stuff; I'm proud of them for finally enhancing the user experience in some unique ways (including video reviews).

I've spent a while here looking through all kinds of news and have come up with a few things I want to talk about before I go to bed, starting with Joel Spolsky's entry on Evidence Based Scheduling, a system it sounds like Fog Creek pieced together from other existing ideas, but I'm not clear on that. Anyhow, this is an excellent read if you ever want to be a technical manager. Scheduling projects is typically not very fun for a programmer because it's a little daunting to time out everything you have to do to get something done, and you're worse at it as you look farther into the future. I know that we've definitely drawn upon some of those planning suggestions at work over the summer and they worked great, but his post highlights in more detail the aspect of using the accuracy of past estimates to better keep track of how close your ship date is to when you say it is. I don't know if there's any mathematical validity to his technique, but it doesn't sound too shabby because you almost never are right on the money in planning out your future. No matter how experienced you are, it's just tough in this field. Software construction is a whole different ballpark from building construction: we don't have those pesky laws of physics and nature to bound our work, just ourselves. In reality, we really are our own worst enemies: either perfectionists or sloths or even victim to requirements creep. Though I do believe we follow a trend in how we do these estimates, so that's why I'm promoting the concept.

It's funny, I don't know when I started using Google. I remember one fine day in early 2007 using the Internet at my neighbor's house with only one URL given to me: www.yahoo.com. When we got the Internet later that year, I naturally used Yahoo to find Flash games and other junk to occupy my pre-teen boredom. Then I moved to Metacrawler, because it was concise about searching and Yahoo gave me too many crap results, and then people started using something called Google, which I argued was still too many results compared to my Metacrawler and probably wasn't as efficient. Then I somehow got lured into Google by the simplicity of it. Back in those days, we didn't have Broadband, so I loved anything that loaded fast. I don't know if this phenomenon is more apparent anywhere than this picture timeline of the layouts of Yahoo and Google. What's really telling is the real estate dedicated to advertising: it was one of the primary reasons I wrote off Yahoo's early beta of their new AJAX-ified Yahoo Mail. It really amazes me that as backwards as several of Google's products are in UI design (though I still champion Google Maps as being the best free online map service, despite the fanciful Live Maps), Yahoo always makes itself worse. I'm honestly amazed that they're still doing so well; I guess they've made some pretty good acquisitions. It's sad because they have all this potential, and they're just not doing anything with it. They really shouldn't let Google bully them around in market share.

Am I to know that Blockbuster is going down the drain? I was shocked to see the headline of that article. Granted, Netflix is doing well, but I never thought that Blockbuster has been actually digging themselves into a hole. I figured that their strategy with Total Access was balanced enough to keep them afloat, but it looks like they're still operating under losses ($35 million worth). Ouch. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised though because I always use I Love Video in Austin since rentals are like dirt cheap ($2.50). In any case, it's pretty noteworthy, and speaks to the power of a little guy (Netflix) coming out of nowhere to take on a formidable giant (Blockbuster).

I just think this story is funny. Some guy on a train jammed the phones of everyone in a 30-ft radius of him because a girl in her twenties said "like" too much. I say like a little too much myself, but I do see the irritation of people having long, drawn-out conversations within earshot. It's like I'm being distracted with information I never cared to know. Why do people get on a bus and have personal conversations? If I want a soap opera I'd be watching Friday Night Lights (which is really excellent right now, if you don't watch it).

The only movies I want to mention briefly are trailers I liked. A newer trailer for The Golden Compass is online in glorious HD and it's just awesome. I'm definitely biased here because this is a movie I seriously daydreamed about as a kid. I enjoyed that book so much that I would totally imagine what the movie would be like or a game and was amazed that it hadn't happened already. I have to see it. Another book is being made into a movie: There Will Be Blood is actually based off of the Upton Sinclair novel, Oil, about the conflict that oil brings to a small town during California's oil boom (I think this was the early 20th century?). The trailer just really fascinated me for some reason, and I liked how it ended in a semi-creepy way despite this movie not being a horror/thriller movie at all to counteract the title. The other trailer is for Southland Tales, which has been out for a while but it's still a funky one. It got mixed reviews at film festivals, but I'm still hella interested given that I can damn near act out Donnie Darko myself.

I'm too tired to do a meme, and it'll probably be another week before I post again (sorry), so here's a picture from Broomball a couple of days ago. We lost, but it was still fun.



I just got a 1GB memory card for my camera so I guess I'll be able to take even more pictures now (I was using 512MB). In fact, I'll share one more picture from yesterday: ACM's Big Event. I had two plates of this delicious Rudy's BBQ and I'm pretty impressed that I'm still alive right now.

1 comment:

JennYfer said...

Sad I didn't make it to broomball. I really wanted to though...REALLY, REALLY wanted to.

:-( Semester sucks. How's everything else going?