Zachary J. Slater

Assembled in Philadelphia

Month: March 2013

Quebec’s Multilingual Joker

The World interviews a comedian in Quebec about language:

Samir Khullar aka Sugar Sammy is the Quebec-born son of Indian immigrants. As a kid, he spoke Punjabi and Hindi at home and French at school. But he learned to tell jokes in English.

‘I’d host all the talent shows at school,’ he says. ‘I’d make all the announcements on the intercoms, and when we had school trips the teachers would let me go to the front of the bus to entertain the kids.’ He did all that in French. He had to– those were the rules. But he’d switch to English whenever he could, ‘just because it wasn’t allowed. As soon as it’s not allowed, as a kid you want to do it.’

Listen to the entire interview audio, it’s great:

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”show_artwork=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Google Plus

Ben Evans on Google+:

The only country where Google+ is top of the social networking category is Albania.

Don’t outsource your irreplaceable services

Brent Simmons on iCloud data syncing from the app designer/developer perspective:

How comfortable are you with outsourcing half your app to another company? The answer should be: not at all comfortable.

Misguided Listings

David Sprinks on How to Hire the Right Community Manager for the Job:

As a result of these four things, most companies that I speak to who know they need community help are completely lost on how to find the right person.

Over the past few years, I’ve helped place a number of community managers and have advised dozens of companies on how to find the right person.

1. What are your actual needs? Are you even hiring for community?

This will solve the first two problems right away. It’s easy to know if you’ve found the right person if you’re super clear about what it is you actually need. Forget about titles.

Are you hiring someone to build a power user program? Then look for someone who has done that before.

Are you hiring someone to manage a forum? Seek out that experience.

Are you hiring for someone to do social media marketing? Then find someone who’s done that (and don’t call them a community manager when you hire them, thanks!)

What most companies that post job listings for a Community Manager actually want, and the job listing sort-of-makes-clear, is a Social Media Marketer to get their message across and make their calls-to-action successful.

Community managers and other folks can wear a lot of hats, to reuse a tired phrase, but it isn’t always necessary and it certainly doesn’t need to be this way. There is value in just straight-up community management without the marketing angle.

Checkboxes that kill your product

Alex Limi on Checkboxes that kill your product:

If I told you that a company is shipping a product to hundreds of millions of users right now, and included in the product are several prominent buttons that will break the product completely if you click them, and possibly lock you out from the Internet — can you guess which product it is?

Sounds like that’s the kind of product that only a large enterprise software company like Oracle or IBM would ship, right? Maybe some of the antivirus extortionware software for Windows? Maybe vpn software?

Well, we have met the enemy, and he is us.* In the currently shipping version, Firefox ships with many options that will render the browser unusable to most people, right in the main settings ui.

There are too many good products, free and commercial, that suffer from configuration rot.

Smart Guy Productivity Pitfalls

Brian Hook writing about Smart Guy Productivity Pitfalls:

I remember Carmack talking about productivity measurement.  While working he would play a CD, and if he was not being productive, he’d pause the CD player.  This meant any time someone came into his office to ask him a question or he checked email he’d pause the CD player.  He’d then measure his output for the day by how many times he played the CD (or something like that — maybe it was how far he got down into his CD stack).  I distinctly remember him saying ‘So if I get up to go to the bathroom, I pause the player’.

You know what’s pretty hardcore?  Thinking that  going to the bathroom is essentially the same as fucking off. 

This article is great, Hook is right once again and has more to say so read the whole thing.

There are exactly two things, in order of importance that have helped me be productive about the things I care about:

  1. The Back to Work podcast.
  2. OmniFocus for iPhone.

The Back to Work podcast has taught me a lot of important lessons. Like not giving up on something that is important to me just because I miss a day in the schedule. For a repetitive task like exercising or learning a language this is essential to making progress. You will screw up and miss a day, but it’s OK because tomorrow you can just go back to it instead of giving up entirely. I don’t explain it half as well as Merlin Mann, so go listen.

The podcast also pointed me to OmniFocus as a good step in “Getting Things Done.”

In OmniFocus I have a bunch of tasks to do each day, I spend most of my time with it in the Forecast. That view  looks like this:

OmniFocus Forecast

There is more to it, of course, but as a basic method of tracking that I have some things that needs to get done each day, OmniFocus is perfect. There are folders that I use to track tasks for projects and other features, but you don’t have to use half the features of this thing to reap some benefit.

You could probably do the same thing with another TODO list, this one has some other features that I like such as geofencing where it pops up when I am near the grocery store to let me know that I need to buy cereal.

Getting rid of all that junk swirling around in the toilet bowl of the mind so that you can work on the things that matter instead of constantly coming back to wondering about if you have enough Lucky Charms to get through the week is awesome.

I still need to read the actual book (Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity), but so much of this stuff is easy to get started on before reading a tome full of business-speak.

Writing for LinuxGames

After a brief hiatus (4 years!) I’m writing for LinuxGames again. My byline on that site has changed to “TimeDoctor” to jive with TimeDoctor Dot Org, my home of late for dozens of gameplay videos.

I had first started writing for LG in 2000.

The editor-in-chief, Dustin, and I happened to be in the IRC channel for Loki, where the developers behind the biggest success story in Linux gaming would dole out beta access and generally carouse with anyone interested in their games. That’s where I hounded Dustin to let me write for LG, and eventually got the job. I don’t really recall what my intentions toward writing were. Just that I enjoyed doing it and reading the output of other gaming sites like Blues News, sCary’s Shuga Shack, and loonygames. I guess that I needed to find a niche to excel and channel some creative output in.

If you had told me then that Valve would eventually be on Linux through a digital distribution platform of their own creation I would have asked you what a digital distribution platform was and wondered what it might look like. That it would take 13 years to get there seems even more ridiculous.

Loki’s idea of jumping the gun straight to boxed copies of games that were released much later than their Windows counterparts wasn’t long lived. They were pretty much the first and last to do it with the community behind them, despite the best efforts of Linux Game Publishing.

There were a few ethical mistakes at the time that I regret. Being both press and an unpaid beta tester for Loki. Although I was able to separate out the difference in attitude and style when writing reviews, and to my recollection none of the readers ever questioned it. I can’t help but feel It would have produced a better article if I had gone in fresh, and when Loki got weirder during their downfall I felt really creeped out by having to justify my requests for review copies to them. My e-mail archives don’t go back far enough to let me know if I guaranteed a “good review” but what I can remember was not cool. As the only site for coverage on the topic it seems even more ridiculous in retrospect that those discussions had to happen at all.

Beta testing at Loki lead directly to my career in Quality Assurance (at Microsoft of all places) and creating a site called Game QA Blog where some friends and I wrote about QA in gaming for a while.

Writing for Linux Games got me a role as a technical reviewer on Linux Game Programming. That book only seemed to exist to compete with another book called Programming Linux Games. We beat them to the punch on the better title, but they had far superior content.

At one point we had a podcast going, but it was short lived due to conflicting schedules. I helped transition the site from an aging custom content management system to WordPress. Pushing for the site to modernize made me stop waiting for anyone else to do it and make twitter and Facebook accounts.

Once my career got off the ground I started writing less and less for LinuxGames but I attribute most of my success to that site and the friends I made through it.

As an aside, I now host loonygames’ archived site on my DreamHost account after Jason Bergman, the titular “loonyboi,” put out a request for help in the past year or so. Jason wrote about it on his tumblog.

With all of the success Linux gaming has had recently it is great to be back at LinuxGames. Even if most of my posts today are written on my Mac 😉

Once you go Mac

Miguel De Icaza:

While I had Macs at Novell (to support Mono on MacOS), it would take a couple of years before I used a Mac regularly. In some vacation to Brazil around 2008 or so, I decided to only take the Mac for the trip and learn to live with the OS as a user, not just as a developer.

Computing-wise that three week vacation turned out to be very relaxing. Machine would suspend and resume without problem, WiFi just worked, audio did not stop working, I spend three weeks without having to recompile the kernel to adjust this or that, nor fighting the video drivers, or deal with the bizarre and random speed degradation that my ThinkPad suffered.

Right on the money.

This mirrors my own experience, except for the trip to Brazil.

I had been a pretty big proponent of Linux on the desktop since about 2001.

Some time before that I had my first experience with Linux that was mind-boggingly stupid. Win modems.

My first Linux was RedHat 5.2 in the late ’90s. To get on the internet from home you had to dial-out.

Most computers at the time shipped with the cheapest modem you could find. Unfortunately, the price for cost-reduction was compatibility. These Winmodems needed extremely custom software to operate that replaced most of the expensive hardware with software which was only available in Windows.

Old hat, I know but the frustration of having incompatible hardware and software is a constant theme in Linux and the stories of folks who switch away.

When I knew a Linux machine couldn’t serve me anymore I went to the Mac. Where my kernel doesn’t need recompilation and my boot loader doesn’t tend to explode when I try something new.

With the Mac’s rise to the challenge of courting Unix lovers I hope that Linux developers who have stuck with it will start to compete by making better designed software that is more welcoming to new users.

Free only goes so far.

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