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  • My Thoughts On Twitter

    Introduction

    There's been lots of speculation about Twitter and what it means to the modern technologist. I've found some of it pretty insightful and some of it misinformed. I use Twitter. A bunch. Not as much as some, but more than average. I like it.

    The Best Defense...

    I don't intend to defend Twitter because I do not believe it the needs defending.

    This post is not intended to change your mind about Twitter. I'm not trying to convince you that you should or shouldn't use it - I'm not telling you "you're missing out" if you're not out there building your Follower Count each and every day. Honestly, I don't know if you're missing out or not. So I'm also not telling you that you aren't missing out.

    You may, in fact, be missing out.

    All that follows is my opinion; an opinion formed in the context of my experiences with the industry as a hobbyist and then professional since 1975.

    What Twitter Isn't...

    Twitter isn't micro-blogging.

    Twitter isn't slow IM.

    Then What Is It?

    That, I think, is an excellent question! I'm not going to try and answer it all at once. If you simply cannot bear to wade through my attempts at logic, you can skip to the "Andy's Answer" section to read my answer.

    First, A Bit Of History:

    In the beginning, there was ENIAC. By today's standards, ENIAC was large and clunky. Other systems followed ENIAC, most of them very large machines that filled rooms and entire buildings with less computing power than almost any modern computing device.

    One problem with these machines was time. Scientists, engineers, and normal people had to schedule time on these machines. They had to physically travel to the computer to load and then execute programs. There was usually a single terminal, and it was in the room (or one of the rooms) with the computer.

    So terminals were added.

    Now this may seem like a small change, but it was huge at the time. One of the effects of the terminal was it created an external architecture. This architecture evolved as terminals became smarter; and then the workstation came to be. Eventually, workstations became connected to larger computers and the architecture evolved again.

    In my wee mind, I imagine this as a tectonic process. New (emerging) architectures grow similar to divergent plate boundaries shown here. Magma is the medium and engine of tectonics; ideas are the medium and engine of architectures. As the pressure of new ideas spread existing architectures, new layers are formed.

    Returning to my (spotty) history of architecture: demands for more time drove parallel architectures (terminals), and then more intelligent terminals while growing another layer of smaller personal computers - which were then merged into architectures where individual personal computers replaced terminals in client-server architectures.

    Architectures continued to evolve into n-tier, which eventually evolved into the modern cloud. It hasn't been clean or easy, but it's here - if only in its infancy.

    Whenever architectures evolve, they do so organically and naturally. That's one reason I like to look for natural and organic processes for analogies. In the real world, nothing grows like smooth linear or gently increasing curves. In real life, things crack and expand and bifurcate, and there's entropy and cycles and fractals all over the place.

    Andy's Answer

    Twitter is something completely new.

    It is a new layer in the architecture. Developers are finding all sorts of small, niche-filling, cool things to do with it. It's simple. It's elegant. It's one of the new things to pop out of the idea magma to build the latest part of the zeitgeist continent.

    Classify it otherwise if you will, but (in my opinion) you do so at your own risk.

    Conclusion

    The preceding words are merely my opinion. I welcome your thoughts.

    :{> Andy

     

  • Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1 released!

    If you're fortunate enough to have access to an MSDN Subscription, you can download various components of VS 2010 Beta 1 now. If you don't have access to an MSDN Subscription, don't despair - you only have to wait until Wednesday.

    The beta includes Team Foundation Server. And now Database Edition is built-in to Developer Edition!

    :{> Andy

  • Things I Know Now

    Introduction

    I was tagged by Joe Webb for this question circulating through the inter-tubes.

    Joe and I shared a cab to the airport after the PASS Summit 2008. If you've never had the opportunity to share a cab with Joe, I highly recommend it. He's one of those people. You know the type - they talk to you for a few minutes and impact the rest of your life in a positive way. A way that still has you thinking months later. Thanks Joe.

    My List

    Well, I have to admit I saw some good stuff when following the links to others who've answered this question. I'm going to repeat some of theirs here, but only because I've learned (usually the hard way) the same thing.

    1. Learn constantly. There are fields out there where you can get trained and then do that work most of your life without having to learn much more. Database work is not one of those fields. Plan to spend some of your time - your own time - keeping up with what's new and on the horizon.

    I'm not asking you to fall instantly in love with every new feature you encounter. That would be absurd. But equally absurd is dismissing every new feature - especially the stuff you don't understand or cannot think of a good use for at the moment. Features are added for a reason. Most of them are good reasons, at least to someone. It might not be for you, but will it kill you to learn something new? If I don't understand it, I can't use it - ever. If I do understand it, it becomes another tool in the toolbox.

    2. Dream big. I was struggling with my new career as a DBA. I felt I was in over my head and, any minute, I was going to be discovered and fired. I am not making this up. About the time I attended the PASS Summit 2004 I got a few successes under my belt - enough to feel more secure in my job but not enough to convince me I knew anything about very large databases in SQL Server.

    It was The Year of the Storms in Florida. Orlando looked like it had been bombed. It was ugly, but the conference went on. I stood in line at the hands-on labs to meet Ken Henderson. I was devouring The Guru's Guide to SQL Server Internals and Architecture along with Kalen Delaney's SQL Server 2000 Performance Tuning Technical Reference. I credit both authors with saving my career, incidentally.

    I heard Ken dispensing no-nonsense advice to people. I think some thought to "teach him a thing or two," and he respectfully but firmly resisted this with the gentleman in line in front of me (poor guy). I was next, and was probably visibly shaking in my shoes. I explained to Ken that I was pretty new to large SQL Server database and was a web developer that had been thrust into a new position at work. I told him about my approach - relying on my engineering training and testing heavily - and explained the symptoms I was seeing. Ken made a few excellent suggestions, which I wrote down and which, unsurprisingly, put me right on top of the issues I was describing. I thanked him profusely and started away. He said "Hey, you're approaching this like I would."

    I felt like the kid on the old Coke commercial - the one where Mean Joe Greene throws him his jersey. I know it sounds cheesy, but I entered that room as a guy learning databases and left it a database professional. The difference for me was the confidence that I was approaching this problem like Ken Henderson would.

    3. Live transparently. I blogged about this recently but it bears repeating. Treat others like you want to be treated, in public and private. Work hard. Admit your mistakes and do everything you can to correct them and mitigate the damage - all as soon as possible. Help as many people as you possibly can. Don't lie. When the honest answer is "I don't know," lead with that - you can tell folks your best guess after stating you don't know. It's ok, no one knows it all.

    4. "If it was easy..." My Granny used to say "If it was easy, anyone could do it." (This was the same lady who told me "Son, God gave you a [backside] so you'd have somewhere to land when you fall.") I've experienced failure and I've watched others experience it. It ain't pretty and it's no fun to live through or deal with. Bad things happen when people fail. That's a fact. But you're not judged by how many times you fall down, in my opinion and estimation; you're judged by whether you get up or just stay there.

    Get up.

    If nothing else, you now know at least one thing that doesn't work. Use that. Leverage it. Build a way that will work from it's ashen rubble. Don't just sit there on your ash.

    5. Take good advice. A good skill to cultivate is the ability to recognize good advice when you hear it. Note: You may not want to hear good advice. I can guarantee you it's unpleasant when you've messed up.

    I'm blessed to be surrounded by people who care about me enough to tell me "Andy, that was a mistake." When they do, I usually don't want to hear that. But I recognize the motive and hear the heart, and know it's good advice.

    Conclusion

    That's all I can think of for now. There are no magic formulas or guarantees in life. These are the things I'd share with my younger self if I could write a letter to me and send it back in time.

    :{> Andy

     

  • Life, Work, and the Theory of Constraints

    Introduction

    Have I warned you that I am an engineer? If not, consider yourself warned. 

    A long time ago in place not too far away, I learned about the Theory of Constraints from a book: The Goal. The mantra of the book was an application of Carnot's Second Law of Thermodynamics (also known as entropy) to management philosophy. It's essence is:

    Losses accumulate, gains don't. 

    Entropy

    You may think I'm odd (most who know me do, and I'm ok with that), but this is one of the things I've taught my children. Or tried very hard to teach them. To me, this is the heart of the answer to observations from childhood like "That's not fair!" I explain to them first that they're correct - it isn't fair. And then I go on to explain that life sometimes isn't fair. In fact, most of the time life isn't fair. I'd say they're with me about half the time at this point. If they're not with me it's because the engineering genes have kicked in and they're trying to come up with some means to make life more fair... but I digress.

    When they get older, I explain entropy to them as best I can. My favorite time to do this is when they're learning about physics in school. For some unexplainable reason, they don't teach thermodynamics anymore like my favorite physics teacher (Janet Kasparian, aka "Mrs. K.") did back when I was in school. But I'm digressing again.

    Anyway, my children and I talk about probability and statistics some. We apply that to some examples like the arrow of time, the spike in cosmic background radiation around the 2.7 DegK range (evidence of "something really warm" happening a dozen billiion years ago or so), etc. It's a fun talk. ;)

    Application

    The kicker to entropy is: it biases the universe. It makes things unequal. Processes go better one way and resist other ways. There is imbalance, one-sided-ness,... unfairness.

    One of the unfair things is losses accumulate and gains don't. This sounds like a really simple statement. On the surface it is; but the implications are profound in physics, and in the remainder of life as well.

    It means you cannot make a muddy cloth clean by rubbing it against a clean cloth. It's part of the reason why, if you open the valve on a helium tank while filling balloons at your birthday party, the helium will disperse fairly equally in the room initially, and in the atmoshpere of the planet, eventually.

    Business

    Applied to management philosophy, it means the stupid things I do today will live forever while the good things I do everyday will be met with "Cool, that's your job" most of the time. Expressed differently, it takes n++ 'at-A-Boy's to make up for n Oh-No's. Fair? No. Reality? You bet.

    Just Add One Internet

    When you add the impact of the internet to the mix, things get complex fast. The gains don't merely accumulate, they exponentiate along the power curve of social dynamics. Before the internet, people had to call my personal references to get information about me. Not anymore. They can use their search engine of choice to find things I myself have personally written. In short, everything I write can be used against me.

    The good side is: Everything I write can be used for me as well. But remember the effect of entropy.

    It takes n++ impressive and correct articles / posts / tweets (yes, Twitter is implementing search, and all my messages are there - way back to August 2007) to make up for n offending articles / posts / tweets.

    Think about that for a minute.

    Ok, welcome back.

    On Living Transparently

    Anyone who follows me on Twitter know I advocate living transparently. I can hear you asking: "What exactly does that mean, anyway?" I'm glad you asked. It means always being me - publicly and privately. Does it mean I tell everyone everything? Not by a long shot. But it does mean that it's pretty easy to figure out what I'm thinking about - especially if I'm online - at any given time. You can tell what kind of day I'm having, whether I'm happy or not, healthy or not, and what I'm planning to do in the near future.

    I draw a line at the obviously personal and do have a private life (believe it or not). But my line is drawn closer in than most.

    Conclusion

    Live like you want, write what you want, post and tweet what you want. Years ago I donned a uniform and swore an oath to the Constitution of the United States to protect and defend all of it; including your right to say, think, feel, write, post, and tweet anything you want.

    However...

    Nothing, nowhere, protects you from the consequences of what you say, think, feel, write, post, and tweet. And before you say (or think) it: Yes, that's not fair.

    :{> Andy

     

  • Chiming In On Sexual Harassment

    Introduction

    There was a lot of buzz today on the sexual harassment of our female peers. The first post I saw was from Alan Stevens. This was followed by at least two more from Steve Jones and Denny Cherry - and there were likely more I haven't yet seen.

    Women

    Approximately half the population is female, but the ratio is much different in technology. In addition, women are leaving technology in droves. After reading of Alan's experience and catching a few Tweets on the matter, it's easy to understand why.

    This bugs me. Part of the reason it bugs me is it's just wrong. This isn't hard to figure out. It's immoral. It can cost you a job. It can cost you a civil suit. It can cost you a relationship with someone you care about. Is it worth all that? I mean, even if you harass a woman and she takes you up on it. Really?

    Another part of the reason is I am married to a wonderful woman and the father of three beautiful daughters - and I wouldn't want any of them to experience this, though I'm sure Christy, Manda, and Penny have. Only Emma (age 3) has been spared, and that won't last.

    Yet another part of the reason is I've said and done stupid things trying to be funny that doubtless made female peers uncomfortable.

    The Solution?

    "Doc? It hurts when I do this." Doc: "Don't do that."

    Treat others how you want to be treated, regardless of gender. Build and maintain a culture of trust and respect. This can take years to construct, but only minutes to destroy.

    Conclusion

    It's not that difficult. We have to live a little more like we work: think and do. Especially think.

    I appreciate Alan's post. It not only reminded me to show women proper respect, it educated me: I now have a good response when I witness this in the future.

    Thanks Alan.

    :{> Andy

  • A Pastry Tragedy

    Victim: Sugar Rabbit; Age: approximately 4 days; Eyes: dark; Skin: brown; Height: 2" and 3" (respectively, post-crime)

    Suspect: Riley Cooper Leonard; Age: 1.5 years; Eyes: shifty and innocent all at the same time; Skin: tan; Height: 31"

    On the morning of 8 Feb 2009, the suspect was caught Rabbit-handed - holding pieces of Sugar Rabbit in each hand. He had a somewhat surprised expression on his face and uttered the confession "Uh oh" within earshot of several witnesses. According to said witneses, the suspect was heard giggling just prior to apprehension.

    :{> Andy

  • Business Intelligence and the US Presidential Election

    Introduction

    I'm a big fan of intellectual integrity. It appeals to my engineer nature.

    I'm also an amateur student of all things social, which covers philosophy and politics. So I'm really energized about the Web 2.0 social networking I see all around me these days. I'm also working on a couple projects along these lines, of which I'll share more in the future... ;{>

    Politics

    Love it or hate it, politics is part of the US culture. It's part of other cultures too, I defer to US culture because I have more experience here than abroad.

    Depending on your political persuasion, you likely love or hate things every four to eight to twelve years.

    Bias

    The major party candidates are asking potential voters loaded questions. How do I know? I've been asked loaded questions before too - on the job. I recognize one when I see it. I am not saying loaded questions are necessarily bad. In fact, I feel they aren't bad - especially on the job. What on earth am I talking about?

    Bias.

    It's good to detect bias early on in a business intelligence project. As the designer or architect, it gives me a sense of priority. Priority drives design and layout. And so on and so on. My point is simple: I want to deliver what the customer wants. If I can detect their bent early on, I have a greater chance of delivering.

    This also applies to internal projects if I work for a company. I work for Unisys Corporation these days, having hung up my Independent Consulting cape. Identifying the priority and delivering what the internal customer wants makes things better for everyone.

    With politicians, bias is used to manage expectations of the voting electorate.

    Where Are you Going?

    I'm glad you asked.

    Sometimes bias gets way out of kilter. When this happens - and once is too often - bad decisions and pain often result. Sometimes lives are lost. It's that important.

    You combat this dangerous bias using the same tool with which you debunk any other kind of bias: information.

    Business Intelligence is all about information. That's where I'm going.

    Business Intelligence

    So, I am going to perform a Social Business Intelligence measurement, and you're welcome to participate. After the election I am going to record three expectations I have about the first term of the next US President. This record will serve as a measurement of my current expectations of the next US administration, based upon my assessment of their policies - and perceived results - as explained before the election.

    When the next election cycle gets going full swing, I will revisit and evaluate these expectations. I'll ask these questions in regard to each expectation:

    • Did they do what they said they would do? Did the candidate deliver on their promises or offer justification for not delivering on them?
    • Did they not do what they said they would do? Did the candidate mislead the electorate? Did they do something different than their position during the campaign? If so, what was different? And why? What is their explanation?
    • Did they do what they said they would not do? Did the candidate do anything in office that they said they would not do during the campaign? If so, what explanation is offered for the change?

    At some point I'll make my expectations public.

    Later, I'll also make my measurements public.

    If you decide to participate, whether you decide to make your expectations and assessments public or not is up to you. Regardless, I certainly do not need to know them. You could record your expectations in notepad and email it to yourself for posterity. If you decide to join me, whatever you do with the information is up to you.

    I won't mislead you; it would be cool to collect and measure the expectations throughout the coming in administration at critical checkpoints in addition to before the next election. Critical checkpoints like:

    • When a winner is declared.
    • Inauguration Day
    • 100 Days
    • Each State of the Union Address

    But again, the point is to record what you expect to happen based on what you know Election Day or shortly thereafter; and then compare that later, when you know more.

    What do you think?

    :{>

  • Blog Action Day: Poverty

    I'm a little late getting something posted for Blog Action Day. This year's focus is on poverty. I thought I'd share a story.

    There was this guy who grew up in a rural area in the US. Rural in the US is not necessarily poor. And poor in the US is wealthy compared to other nations. That said, this guy didn't really know he was poor. He knew his family didn't have as much stuff as other families, and his clothes and toys were usually last year's "in" stuff. But he had clothes and toys and was fairly contented with what he had.

    He married way too young. To offset that, he started a family. Ok, that wasn't much of an offset. He worked odd jobs to make ends meet. He did farm labor - digging ditches, mucking stalls at the local livestock market... that sort of thing. There were still times when the fridge was almost empty, and it was never full. A couple local churches helped out. Just about the only way up and out of his situation seemed to be college or the military. College cost money, the military actually paid you, so off to the military he went.

    Basic training was demanding but not all that difficult for him. He'd been raised in a relatively strict environment, so boot camp didn't shock him much at all. He made it through and returned to farm work and manual labor. Since he was in the National Guard, he had time away between boot camp and advanced training. He went to advanced training and learned electronics.

    After that he was able to get a better paying job. He worked that job for a year and was able to find an even better paying one. And so it went. With two small children now, things remained tight financially.

    He eventually gained enough experience and confidence - along with a degree in electronics engineering technology - to start his own business. Things went relatively well for him for about six years until the tech bubble burst at the end of the 1990's. That took out his business, and his marriage along with it. He lost almost everything except what he loaded into a pickup.

    He met someone, they fell in love, and she rescued and healed him in ways he still doesn't understand. Although his first two children were young adults, the newlyweds started another family, ending with three children eventually.

    Through hard work, taking some risks, luck, timing, and more hard work; he was able to work his way up beyond anything he would have been able to do - or, frankly, imagine - in his prior life.

    In hindsight, he now realizes the path from the top of the hill to the top of the mountain went through the lowest valley of his life. The relative poverty he experienced for most of his life - defined as earning a wage below the poverty line in the US - was part of that path. It taught him to appreciate things and also caused him to see things differently from people who've never looked in their nearly-empty fridge. It affects him to this day. It impacts his work ethic, personal and business philosophy, religious beliefs, and the way he votes.

    One interesting side note: he's not afraid of losing everything or of starting over. He's done it before and no longer fears it. He knows that there's no substitute for hard work and eyes open for opportunity.

    Is he thankful for the relative poverty? No. But he appreciates the lessons learned thereby.

    Whatever doesn't kill you truly makes you stronger.

    :{> Andy

  • More Pictures From the Richmond Heroes Happen {Here} Event!

    Susan presents SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services.

    Awesome introduction about installation, configuration, and security! Thanks Susan!

    Tickets! Get your swag tickets!

    Can you see the clock cycles? Well? Can you? I can.

    Who let this guy in? I thought there was a sign-up sheet...

    Thanks!

    This has been an awesome, awesome day! Thanks Steve Fibich for taking point and leading the organization effort. Thanks Ron Deskins for your tireless efforts on behalf of the Richmond Developer Community. Thanks to Susan, Steve, and Kevin for sharing your knowledge in outstanding presentations. Thanks Kevin, Justin, Harper, Bob, Bruce, and everyone else who came out to participate - adding to the knowledge exchange with your excellent questions and interaction.

    Great work team!

     

    Special thanks to Brock Barnett and the great team at MaconIT (Carin and Gregg)! Every time we have an event in the Richmond Developer Community, MaconIT always steps up to support us, without hesitation or question. I love you guys (and I'm including you in "guys" Carin - no offense...)! the subs were awesome!

    Solid Quality Mentors provided breakfast (Panera Bread - mmmmm....) and a voucher for training at an upcoming Solid Quality Directions event! Special thanks to Solid Quality!

     

    Microsoft - as always - is our rock for these events. The big reason for this - at least in Richmond - is TBDDEOTP (The Best Damn Developer Evangelist On The Planet): G. Andrew Duthie, aka DevHammer.

    :{> Andy

  • Live (sort of - 16 Aug 2008) From The Richmond Heroes Happen Here Event!

    16 Aug 2008

    Today we're holding the Heroes Happen Here Event in Richmond, Virginia!

    Susan Lennon is presenting on SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services (SSRS). Kevin Hazzard is presenting on Visual Studio 2008 SP1 changes. Steve Fibich is talking about SQL Server 2008 and Powershell during lunch. And I just finished talking about Change Data Capture and SQL Server 2008 Integration Services (SSIS). 

    Here are some pictures from the event (so far):

    Lots of folks in attendance!

    See? I told you there are lots!

    Steve Fibich following Kevin Hazzard's presentation...

    James is enjoying himself!

    Kevin presenting. Emma thinks Kevin looks like Santa Claus - he does have a beard. :)

    Bruce enjoys Kevin Hazzard's presentation!

    "Have you seen this boy?" This is Justin!

    KevDaDev, the legend, the man, chillin' in the back of the room!

     

    Steve Fibich presents Powershell.

    :{> Andy

  • Hotel Monitor

    Now this is cool! The hotel in Baltimore where I'm staying has a six foot VGA patch cord in the desk drawer and a patch panel mounted on the side of the LCD television stand facing the desk - all to allow me to connect my laptop to the 32" LCD!

    I gotta get me one of these for my office!

     :{> Andy

  • Bill Baker's Departure From Microsoft

    Introduction

    If you work with Microsoft Business Intelliegnce technology there was a huge announcement this week. Yes yes, there was the new release of SQL Server 2008, but that wasn't the big news. The big news is:

    The Visionary Has Left The Building

    This was my one-line response to an internal email circulated among the Technical Brain Trust at Solid Quality. (My name was mistakenly added to this list and - so far - no one has caught on! Shhhhh...)

    The Choir

    If you've read anything I have to say about business or developer communities, you already know I'm a huge fan of teams. I go so far as to advocate Leadership Teams for large projects and user groups. Why? Because of a fundamental engineering concept: fault tolerance.

    If one of the leaders (or a family member) becomes ill, or get sent out of town, or just needs a personal day off from leading the endeavor; things can still proceed without a hitch.

    I refer to a post by Eric Sink - one of my blogging mentors - entitled My Comments on "Hitting The High Notes"; which was, in turn, a commentary on a post by Joel Spolsky - another of my blogging mentors - entitled (you guessed it) Hitting the High Notes.

    Eric makes great points about teams (the choir). Joel makes great points about gifted individuals (soloists). Even I commented some, here.

    From a purely engineering point of view, teams allow for more dynamic leadership. "Dynamic" is a fun word. We tend to think of dynamic as positive and, for the most part, it is. Here are some non-positive examples of dynamic:

    • "I just had a dynamic flight."
    • "My doctor's visit was dynamic."
    • "My finances are going to be dynamic for a dynamic amount of time until I find a new job."

    The Soloist

    Soloists are leaders. They are gifted and talented individuals. For whatever reason other people follow them. In fact, that's the best clue that they're leaders: people follow them.

    To continue the theme in the last section, this does not make them all good people. Some examples of good leaders who are not good people:

    • Adolf Hitler
    • Charles Manson
    • Jim Jones

    Leaders can accomplish great things but - in engineering terms - the model has a single point-of-failure: If the leader is removed from the picture for any reason (I prefer the win-the-lottery reason over the hit-by-a-truck reason... I'm a glass half-full kind of guy...), things quickly grind to a halt.

    What Does This Have To Do With Bill Baker?

    I'm glad you asked.

    Mr. Baker is a visionary leader who (soloist) inspires and builds leadershp teams (choirs). He did it at Microsoft. I bet he did as much of it as he could at Oracle before he came to Microsoft, and I'd be willing to bet he's going to continue to do so at Visibile Technologies.

    This combination is the best of all worlds. Mr. Baker is a leader who can manage. He's a team builder. He's inpirational. And his leadership model scales very well.

    So Why Is He Leaving?

    I honestly don't know.

    One thing is certain - and has been certain since Bill Gates announced his plans to step down as Microsoft's Chief Software Architect two years ago: things at Microsoft are... dynamic.

    It was bound to happen. No matter how well one plans succession, no matter how much time is alloted for the transfer of ownership and responsibilities, some things change. And change is a dual-edged sword.

    Some of the changes I've noted: SQL Server 2008 was released three days ago, a mere 161 days after the launch event in San Francisco. Indifferent

    Select DateDiff(dd, '2/27/2008', '8/6/2008')

    I don't know of a single SQL Server professional who was happy with this decision. And while I don't think it ruined or harmed SQL Server 2008's reputation in any way, it did leave a lot of geeks scratching our heads and asking "Why are they doing this now?"

    It's a visible tip of an iceberg, to be sure, but it signals a difference in the way Microsoft operates, and that difference is a trend towards a more marketing-think.

    Is Marketing Bad?

    No. Let me make that perfectly clear. I say that because I believe it in my heart of hearts. I also say it because I believe it in my stomach of stomachs. Marketing pays a lot of my bills. They do a bunch with Business Intelligence, and I work in the Business Intelligence field.

    More than that, marketing is really a communications vehicle. It lets us know about cool stuff coming down the pike and in the pipe at companies like Microsoft.

    What Is Bad?

    Anything out of balance. That's bad.

    So Is Microsoft Out Of Balance?

    I don't think so. You have to remember I'm an outsider looking in. Although I'm an MVP and have some visibility into a team or two, I'm not privy to much more than anyone else outside the company.

    I think things are dynamic. And we've already discussed that dynamic is good and bad.

    So What Do You Think?

    I think Microsoft has lost an incredibly talented and gifted visionary, leader, and team builder named Bill... Gates. I think they lost another one named Bill Baker. And if I were a betting man, I'd wager they will lose more talent in the months ahead.

    At the same time, I think they have been attracting and recruiting the next Bill Bakers and adding some of them to the fold. I have knowledge of some of these efforts and applaud them.

    These folks have joined or will join Microsoft. They will engage, impact Microsoft technology, and probably leave when they feel so inclined. Lord willing, I will be writing about their departure in 2018, and still wondering about why they left!

    Conclusion 

    Attrition is a function of entropy. It is going to happen whether we like it or not. This is the #1 reason I advocate Leadership Teams in Developer Communities.

    All in all, it's good for the software ecosystem, even if some teams - particularly those who lose their awesome leaders - are impacted, even temporarily. Change is inevitable. And Microsoft manages change well - they've demonstrated as much a dozen times.

    I'm sad to see Mr. Baker leave Microsoft. I applaud his efforts, vision, leadership, execution, and style; and wish him success in his new position.

    :{> Andy

  • Riley's Birthday and Christy's New Camera

    Happy Birthday Boof!

    I'm a little late blogging this - Riley's first birthday was last Sunday!

    Here we are on the big day:

    We wore our spiffy new orange-ish colored shirts and khaki pants to church Sunday morning to celebrate. Why orange-ish? Not sure. Christy dressed Riley and I matched him. Manda gave me a Hokie-colored polo shirt for Father's Day (have I mentioned that every day is Father's Day around here?).

    One of Riley's first "words" (a sound really, but he made it a lot) was "boof". He would look at me when he was a couple months old and say "Boof," to which I would respond, "Are you calling me Boof?" And he would laugh. So I sometimes call him Boof. Hopefully that won't stick as a nickname...

    B4

    We had Boof's Big Birthday Bash (B4) the day before. A lot of the family made it over for a cookout and it was a nice day - the humidity settled down some and we enjoyed a consistent breeze on the deck. Here's Mom and Jimmy Lee:

    Here's Mark (Merdoc), Sandy, and Alison:

    Here's Jason and Kim:

    And here's Manda, Tim, and Penny:

    Riley scored way too many toys and enjoyed playing with them and the wrapping paper and bags they came in.

    Christy amazed everyone (again) with her awesome culinary skills. The bacon-wrapped BBQ chicken bites didn't last long at all! And the mini-cupcake pops were a huge hit:

    The evening didn't end until late, after a marathon Rock Band session courtesy of Jason and his kewl game console. I got to be the drummer. Yay. For the record: Most bands are composed of a singer, one or more musicians, and a drummer.

    Here's Emma rockin' out on lead in her princess PJ's - it was definitely past her bedtime:

    Rockin' Princess

    After almost everyone had left, I inflicted my singing on the those remaining and the hostages (kids). I actually pulled off a 98% (Medium) on Synchronicity II - without going falsetto. Take that.

    We had fun!

    Christy's New Camera

    On another note, Christy is working on a cool new project that I cannot publicly talk about yet. But I can tell you it's new. And it's cool. And it's a project.

    She needed to take better pictures as part of it so we picked up a Nikon D80 digital SLR camera for her. The most important thing about her getting a new camera is that I get the old one.

    Christy's been reading up on digital photography and snapping pictures around the house like crazy. As of this writing we're still waiting on one lens, an 18-70mm. Nikkor lenses are tough to find for some reason. She bought the last 50mm / 1.8f in southern Virginia on Thursday - and had to check stores in Roanoke and Lynchburg to find that one.

    Here's a few of her shots - included in this post for comparison with the old (my new!) digital camera.

    Emma:

    Riley:

    Riley hasn't been drinking. Well, not that we know of... He was coming down with a nasty sore throat when this was taken. Hence the read eyes and flushed cheeks. Stevie is starting with it now, and I plan to catch it when I leave town tomorrow to deliver the SSIS for DBAs course in Maryland. Indifferent

    Stevie:

    I love this shot. He's in my office. That's my wallpaper in the background - Ward Cleaver would be proud. Stevie Ray's a handsome boy - watch out ladies!

    Stevie and Emma:

    Here are Stevie Ray and Emma Grace out back on the swingset. They are both on the same part of the swingset and not fighting - making this is a rare photo... 

    Note: the eyes are not photoshopped - they have their mother's beautiful eyes. I'm no expert on photography (or anything really) but I think these are great pictures! Part of it is having a nice camera. Christy also has a good eye - and it shows! And (grabbing some credit here), we make cute kids.

    Here's hoping you are having a great summer. Things are fun here in Farmville.

    :{> Andy

  • Good Friends, Good Food

    I was surprised last night.

    Andrew Duthie - aka TBDDEOTP (The Best Damn Developer Evangelist On The Planet) - called me a few weeks back and said "Let's have dinner, and bring your family. In hindsight, I should've suspected something but I didn't. We set up a dinner meeting at Maggiano's Little Italy in Short Pump. Christy and the kids all piled into the LeonardMobile and headed northeast to Richmond, none the wiser to Andrew's masterful plan.

    Imagine my surprise when I asked to join the "Duthie Party" and we were led to the section containing large tables. I thought "Why are we stopping here? We probably have a booth for the six of us."

    Ha.

    Andrew had gathered most of the folks involved in the Richmond Developer Community leadership and they were waiting for us when we arrived. Susan and Gary travelled all the way from Virginia Beach, and Robin made the trip in from Roanoke. Kevin Israel was there - fresh off a road trip where his daughter placed 19th in the nation in baton twirling - congratulations Israels! Kevin Hazzard was sitting next to him - both had that we-need-to-get-started-on-Code-Camp anxious look on their faces. Justin Etheredge and I got to hang out most of the night. He got to experience Riley wiggling (it was Riley's bedtime and he'd missed a nap) while I asked him "Do you have kids? Do you want one? Now?" ;) Frank planned to be there (driving all the way from NoVa like Andrew) but was unable to make it due to family stuff.

    Frank, I missed you buddy. You let me help out in Richmond and got me started with the Developer Community here. You are my Community Mentor. You taught me how to give back - not with words and definitely not with lectures, but by your actions. I wouldn't be as involved as I am were it not for you. I definitely would not be an MVP. I can't adequately express how much I appreciate you sir. Thank you Brother.

    It was a really really cool time. Andrew presented me a cool Red Zune with this inscribed on the back:

     

    How cool!

    As I've stated time and time again, the Richmond Developer Community succeeds because of an outstanding team of leaders. I'm honored to be part of the team and proud of the successes we've enjoyed. It's been a privilege to participate and I am going to miss working with these exceptional folks. To these and the other leaders in our community I say: I love you and will fondly remember our good times.

    :{> Andy

    PS - Andrew, this Zune ROCKS! :{D

  • For Sale: Pre-Geeked Home Near Farmville, VA

    Well it's official. The listing for the house is live.

    Pre-Geeked House For Sale!

    That's not our house in the background, it's our neighbor's. But that is our driveway.

    The house has everything I was looking for when I buy a house:

    • Close to town but not in town.
    • Quiet neighbrohood.
    • Land. This place has 3 acres.
    • High-speed internet access. I have 10M DSL.
    • Pizza delivery. (Self-explanatory)
    • Four bedrooms, lots of storage, large kitchen, large playroom for the kids. (2,258 square feet of living space)
    • Great yard with just the right amount of 50-80 year old hardwoods trees.
    • "Charm."
    • A garden plot. (The tomatoes are planted!)
    • A large deck.
    • Did I mention how quiet it is? Smile

    In addition to all that, we are located:

    • Two miles from Briery Creek Lake, one of the best large-mouthed bass fisheries in southside Virginia;
    • Two miles from The Manor Golf Club and planned resort / conference center;
    • Less than five miles from the south side of Farmville which includes (on this side of town) a new Lowes (opened Jan 2008), a new YMCA (opened May 2008), and a Walmart Super Center.

    I wish I could take a picture of the morning sky out here when I get up to head into Richmond to catch a flight or work some mornings. Regardless of the temperature, I usually spend several minutes "just hanging around" outside before I get in the car to leave. It is spectacular in the mornings, very peaceful and picturesque.

    I love that we get all four seasons here. And we're two hours from the mountains and scenic Skyline Drive (which you have to drive one day in late September / early October - no one does colors quite like God). We're also about two and a half hours from Virginia Beach. It's a cool place to live.

    Downtown Farmville is quaint. There's a historic downtown district. There's Longwood University and just south of town (less than a mile from the house, in fact) Hampden-Sydney College.

    The area is surrounded by historical sites including Sayler's Creek Battlefield (the last major battle of the Civil War) and about 20 miles west is Appomattox (where General Lee surrendered and the Civil War ended).

    I look forward to our move to the Atlanta area and seeing Christy fulfill a lifelong dream of attending culinary school. But I will miss this place.

    :{> Andy

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