Facebook only takes advantage of idiots

24 05 2010

I realize that this bit of sage wisdom a little late in coming from me, but it must be said. If there is something you do not want others to know or see, do not put it on the internet. It is especially risky to put personal information and incriminating media on a site owned and operated by an “amoral, Asperger’s-like entrepreneur,” as Jason Calacanis described him.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, has developed a reputation as of late for not caring about others’ privacy. Examples would be Facebook’s new, cryptic privacy settings that automatically expose all of your information to the world or attempting to screw over its number-one game developer, Zynga, the creator of Farmville.

If there is one lesson to be learned by end users from all of this, it is to always watch what you put on the web, regardless of how secure or sophisticated the service in question might seem. There are certain details of your life that you would not want to get out into the open and the best way to ensure your private information remains to private is to never share it on the web.

For example, I am comfortable sharing the location where I live. There are nearly 2 million people living in the Indianapolis metropolitan area and it is unlikely that anyone could find me and threaten my personal safety. I imagine it will give someone reading it an idea about my background and who I am, which is a primary goal of social media. I do not share my AIM screen name, mailing address, email address, or phone number anywhere, as these are pieces of personal information that I would not feel comfortable strangers having. Also, Facebook’s ads hook into profile information and target ads appropriately. I do not like to think about who else sees that data. Therefore, I do not share anything vital.

There will always be people like Mark Zuckerberg out there and it is important to guard what you share online very carefully. It can be very easy and satisfying to fill out all those fields, but it could come around to bite you in the end. Show restraint and do not share too much about yourself on the web.


Bringing balance to cell phone usage

23 11 2009

I am a middle-class, white, 22-year old male living in the United States and I only recently received my first cell phone. The reason that I held off for so long was because I never had the need for a cell phone. It just was not something that I ever felt was lacking in my life. For many years my friends all looked at me as though I was nuts when I mentioned I did not own a cell phone.

I believe in simplicity. Less is more in my book and if you are about to bring something new into your life, like a cell phone, ask yourself, “Is it necessary and if it isn’t, will it give me some kind of happiness?” Every time I asked myself that question, the answer was an unequivocal “No.” I say a cell phone as just another bill and an another excuse for people to whine because I choose to ignore them sometimes.

Why do you have cell phone? Did you just get one because it is in vogue to have one? Do you have one just because it is expected of you? I know I bought mine because I needed to be able to make phone calls when I did not have access to a land line. It seems that sometimes people just buy their cell phones without considering whether it is necessary.

If you do have a cell phone, consider how you use it. If if rings, do you trip over yourself to pick it up of do you flip the ringer switch, finish what you are doing, and get back to it later? Perhaps you are doing something important, like driving, and taking or making a phone call in the middle of it would hinder your ability to do both.

Consider why you have cell phone and how you use yours. It seems like a central part of modern life for many people. Perhaps we should all think more deeply about its impact upon our lives.

Jack of all languages, master of none

23 11 2009

I have had experience with several programming languages over the last few years, especially in the last two days. So far this weekend, I have used ActionScript, C, Objective-C, Assembly language, PHP, Ruby, and even TIBasic. However, I feel I am lacking in many of the languages. I feel confident in Ruby and somewhat so in PHP and Obj-C. For the most part, though I have lacked focus. For the moment, I am just trying everything out.

Something that I have learned over the past few months while searching for a job is to specialize. In the tech sector, especially, specialization will help you. The problem lies in making the right decision on what to specialize in.

Indianapolis may be trying to be the Midwestern Silicon Valley, but they are far from it at the moment. There are only so many entry-level programming jobs in the area to go around. Often, they are looking for skills like ASP.NET or C# because most of the development that is going on in central Indiana is Microsoft based.

This can leave you with a big problem on your hands if you are only interested in using easier-to-use open source programming frameworks, like CodeIgniter with PHP or Ruby on Rails. This can leave you in a difficult position if you are trying to make a living in an area where none of these technologies are being used by local development shops.

If you are interested in becoming a developer, talk to local developers in the area where you want to live after graduation. Find out what they are developing in, be it PHP, Rails, .NET, or something else. If no one is developing in what you want to develop in, you have two options. The first is you could go freelance, which would be very difficult, especially immediately after leaving college. The second option is to move to an area where there is a development shop developing in the language/framework that you want to use.

Advantages of being an intern

4 11 2009

It seems like most people in my position, those who are just a few short months from graduating from college, are looking for a real, full-time job. However, if their experience is anything like mine, they find themselves feeling unprepared and under-qualified. I plan on getting into some type of development. Ideally, I would like to work for University Information Technology Services at IUPUI. Like most employers in this area, however, they require a year or two of experience. This leaves me with a Catch 22 to contend with.

Internships offer a great opportunity for students or recent graduates to get real-world experience. I apologize if that sounded like a line from a brochure, but it’s true. Earlier this year, I did a four-month internship at Mobi and I learned a crazy amount of stuff in that time. Many of these internships are paid internships and they may or may not provide enough income to live on your own. In this sense, an internship can provide the best of both worlds from a regular job and school. You are essentially being paid to learn and gain real-world experience beyond what any class can ever provide. Internships are a pretty good deal for students.

The advantage is not entirely the intern’s. The company providing the internship can have someone to perform tasks that do not require a high level of expertise, allowing them to delegate more experience employees to more challenging tasks. At the end of the internship, they will also have a person on their hands who will probably be in the workforce for the next forty years and will be well-trained in recent technologies and will be familiar with the company’s policies and customs. Internships are a pretty good deal for employers.

I am looking around for a second internship before I move into the regular workforce to build up my skills a little more. If you are about the graduate, start looking for internships in your career area. You will not regret it.

Positions at UITS
List of Job Boards from the IU School of Informatics at IUPUI

Shame and Informatics

30 10 2009

I have been in the Informatics program at IUPUI since the beginning of 2008. I feel that so far, it has been an overall positive experience. However, if I were to offer advice to someone considering Informatics as a major, it would be this: Do not rely on the Informatics courses to give you the skills that you will need to land a job.

Lacking applicable skills
If you are trying to become a developer of some flavor, the courses offered by the School of Informatics will not adequately prepare you, unless you want to do Flash/ActionScript. For someone who wants to work with a real man’s language, like PHP, Ruby, Java, or C, walk down Michigan Street and get a certificate or minor from the School of Computer Science. Even better, save some time, money, and sweat and make CS your cognate area.

Learn independently
I have found that as a result of the School’s lacking technical instruction, it has become necessary for me to learn job skills on my own. When I was an intern at Mobi Wireless earlier this year, I was dropped into the deep end with Ruby on Rails. I went in knowing nothing about Rails and came out with a working knowledge of the framework. Much of that knowledge and experience came from independent work while on the job.

I think that there are a lot of smart, passionate, creative, and talented people in the School of Informatics, especially at IUPUI. I have had many opportunities to work with them and learn from them. I do not blame them for the screwy curriculum. This is a new area of study and a new school. It will take some time to work out the kinks.

The Microsoft Revolution

14 04 2009

I think I have fallen into the habit of telling huge companies who don’t listen to me what they should do. I do this with an outside perspective and relatively knowledge of the industries that they inhabit. What company am I opining on today? Well, I cannot believe I haven’t done this sooner, but the company is Microsoft.

I have seen Microsoft floundering around marketing-wise since the Windows Vista launch. Vista was so poorly received and had enough significant issues. Since then, it has been fighting an uphill battle to position itself as a lean, mean competitor. This, in my opinion, proves difficult when your company is all over the place. Microsoft has its hands in everything. They have an operating system, a game console, and make computer peripherals. They also have the Zune, an MP3 player that failed to live up to Microsoft’s expectations.

If you want to call me an Apple fanboy, that is fine by me. I do not think that there is any falsehood to any of the things that I stated here. Microsoft is killing itself by clinging to legacy code. They need to send a dozen people into a room at the edge of the Redmond campus to come up with a totally new Windows, built from the ground up. I understand that Microsoft feels pressure from the business sector to stick with legacy code, but that is no excuse. I think that Apple made the right call by scrapping the code that they had used in the Mac from 1984 through 2001 and created a completely new operating system, one based on BSD Unix, no less. A Unix-based Windows might make the PC more reliable and secure. That would definitely be a selling point strong enough to drown out the whiney CIOs who complain about having to learn a totally new Windows.

Another thing that Microsoft needs to do is to sort itself out. It has way too much stuff going on. Microsoft has got its hands in virtually everything relating to consumer electronics, apart from building personal computers themselves. Microsoft needs to figure out what it’s really good at and what it really wants to be good at. They also should scale down the size of their development teams to allow for more creativity to enter their products, where they would normally get drowned out be committees and huge groups.

Of course, I am relatively new to software development, so I could be wrong in all of this. On the other hand, these may be ideas that Microsoft should consider.

Have you ever looked at WP’s login page?

7 04 2009

I had logged into WordPress.com and I was wracking my brain to think of something to say. That is when I noticed the “VIP Posts” on the login page. It was interesting but uninteresting at the same time. I was uninterested in the content that was presented to me. It was mostly links to posts at CNN or Cute Overload. In the past, I had also seen links to posts on FailBlog and I Can Has Cheezburger.

I was left figuratively scratching my head. I do not understand why they would aggregate posts this way. All of them were irrelevant to me and they were all unrelated, save for the fact that they were all found on prominent sites that happened to use WordPress for their blog CMS.

WordPress people, please understand that this is a terrible way of doing things. Perhaps instead of lolcats and equally relevant new networks, you should deliver content and information that is actually relevant to people. I do not believe that simply because a site has lots of hits and is relatively well-known, it is the best source of information or used by most people. I personally do not look at lolcat pictures or CNN. They are both a waste of my time.

I would suggest that instead of having this”VIP Posts” section, you have a section with posts from relatively unknown bloggers or make it customizable. Having the WP post-login page display a customized feed reader (a good feed reader) may encourage users to get used to WP’s interface and maybe even spend more time there, rather than just clicking through to type out a blog post and leaving.

(Just a thought, which is more than CNN can say.)