A case study for the next Don Norman book: MSN Messenger 7.0

When product design forgets about real-life users

A co-worker of mine, told me something I hadn’t thought about around the feature in MSN messenger that lets people see what you are listening to now. It seems that Messenger will broadcast whatever it is that is playing in Windows Media player to all your IM buddies. ANYTHING that is playing. If you are watching a video that you would be embarrassed about and you have these feature on, well, you get the idea.

From a business perspective, I think that the feature itself is sheer genius. Why? Well, because when you do show what you are listening to, it adds links so that your IM Buddies can buy the music you are listening to over at MSN Music. It is amazing, it turns you into a walking billboard (well, IM’ing billboard) for MSN music under the guise of creating a better sense of Community. I want to consider it evil, but it is such a great idea, I just have to admire it.

I wonder if you are watching Porn if it will send people to the porn site…

Bill Gates wonders why students are turning away from CS

I’ll tell you why Bill…

It is your fault. Well, yours and Carly Fiorina and pretty much every other high tech CEO. You laid-off employees in secret and in public and you opened campuses in other countries and made promises to staff them with cheaper labor. You drove American software development wages down and crushed start-ups where the cool stuff is actually happening. You bring in H1-B indentured servants and pay them less than industry wages.

I am an alumni interviewer for the top CS program in the country. In the last few years, I have been asked more and more frequently if it is a good idea to major in CS given where the industry is going.

Honestly, I’d hate to be one of the kids graduating today with a degree in CS. The industry may rebound and wages may go higher for a little while, but the writing is on the wall. Today’s software developers are yesteryears machinists and assembly-line workers. Those were once solid middle class jobs with good incomes and now they are getting squeezed on all sides by companies who don’t give a damn about their employees and foreign workers who just want to make a decent wage.

I think that there will always be good CS jobs in America, but not as many as there used to be. The industry destroyed the image of the industry…

The funny thing is that while Bill is bemoaning the lack of qualified applicants to Microsoft, I have heard from friends in HR there that they are getting so many resumes that they can’t keep up. What is wrong with those resumes? Well, most of them are from people with industry experience, not college hires. You see, Microsoft prefers college hires (and H1-B visa holders) because they get paid less, work longer hours, don’t have families and are more likely to stick around in a job they don’t like (because they don’t know where else they can go). A 40 year old is not going to work five 80 hour weeks in a row because a Program Manager made a promise without consulting development. Or if that 40 year does work those hours, those will be his last five weeks at the company because he is either going to quit or die an early death.

Bill, you want more college students interested in studying Computer Science? How about making Microsoft a fun place to work again with good wages? How about not laying off employees in secret while doing massive hiring in China and India?

some references:
Gates: You just can’t get the staff (The Register)
Gates Puzzled Why More Students Don’t Choose Computer Science (KOMO News)
Gates stresses need for qualified help (The Seattle Times)
India calls for big increase in US IT visas

The Seattle Mid 90s Goth-Industrial Renaissance

In the last week, I’ve seen show posters for both Black Atmosphere and Skies Cries Mary. Both of these groups were the leaders of the Seattle goth/industrial scene when I first moved here in the mid 90s and both of them broke up a few years later.

It seems a bit early for a revival of this stuff. Maybe these guys are tired of the amazingly lame local band, Kuma ripping them off…

Posted: Mon – July 18, 2005 at 12:18 AM

Sorry Tim Robbins

Embedded/Live is boring

I’m one of the faithful liberals, but I found this document kinda boring and not very enjoyable. Elvis Mitchell thought that this was an interesting attempt to capture a stage play, but I think that “Uncle Vanya on 42nd Street” or “Looking For Richard” are much better.

Sorry Tim, maybe I needed to be there…

The Apartment Redux

well, bummer

We returned to the apartment this week, it was moderately full, but not as loud as last time and I wanted to check their cooking. One problem, we only had about an hour to eat. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem in a big restaurant. In a small place, that is also a bar and only has about 10 people dining, it should have been no problem at all. Except that after being seated immediately, we had to wait about 10 minutes to order (after we had put the menus down). Then we sipped our excellent martinis as we waited for our food and waited and waited. After about 20 minutes, the waitress stopped by our table and asked us “Did I take your order?” To which we replied “YES!” She’d forgotten to give it to the kitchen. We were then told that anything we ordered at that point would take another 20 minutes at least. We hadn’t even been brought bread at this point, by the way. We bid a fairwell and to their credit, they comp’d our martinis, but this is the second time I’ve tried to eat there and never actually received my food.

Last time I thought it was the kitchen, this time it was definitely the waitress.

Just avoid this place if you actually want to eat.

94 Stewart

this new Bistro at Pike Place Market needs your support

This spot opened on April 1st in the old Garlic Tree location. It is somewhat hidden and has had a bit of trouble bringing in a crowd. We had brunch there this morning by ourselves. The service was good, the food is good. The food wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was good. What I was really impressed by was that the chef seems really to be taking some chances. This isn’t standard fare, if you are looking for a good piece of fish, cooked well, you can do that in a lot of places. If you are looking for some truly unique flavor combinations, this place is the most original that i’ve found in Seattle yet. You can check out their menus on their website.

Plus, they allow dogs! Inside! For that alone they need to be supported.


consistently good

Here is my first completely positive review. For a little while, I’ve avoided posting it, not wanting to give away the secret. Of course, it isn’t a secret, it has been around for a long time and is consistently highly rated everywhere. And now, I’m tossing in my $.02.

Brasa is excellent. It was excellent the first time we ate there, years ago. It was excellent when we ate there a few nights ago.

Brasa services Portuguese and mediterranean food, the atmosphere is somewhat dark, but comfortable. It is expensive, but the bar menu has most of the same great food in smaller portions for a lot less money. We usually will eat in the bar, unless we have a special occasion to celebrate. The service is great and friendly. The only complaint is that the bar allows smoking (the dining area does not, but there isn’t a wall between them). This means that we’ve occasionally had to switch tables because we were sitting next to chain smokers. The staff has always accommodated us cheerfully when this happens.

[11.25.06 update – smoking is no longer allowed indoors in public places, so that isn’t an issue anymore]

I recommend Brasa unequivocally.

Welcome to the police state, citizen

The Bush administration is now classifying documents at the rate of 125 per minute, an unprecedented rate. At the same time, the administration is demanding more and more information about its citizens through instruments like the Patriot Act. If information is power, George Bush wants to make sure that he has the power. The purpose of this is two-fold. If the administration controls access to the facts, it is hard to prove government allegations a lie (just ask the 9-11 commission); secondarily, it allows the administration to dig up dirt on its enemies.

some references:
The Bush Administration – a civil liberties scorecard (the ACLU)
U.S. government secrecy reaches historic high – By Scott Shane (The New York Times)
Rove talked to reporter but denies leak – By Richard B. Schmitt (Los Angeles Times)