28 June 2010

Can you just stop this obsession with books?

Hey, Library. How are you? It's been a while since we last had a serious talk, but I've been busy. Anyway, I've got a few minutes to kill before I have to fly off again, so care for a cup of coffee or something? Great!

So, how have you been? Busy, eh? Yeah, I know the feeling, always striving towards the future, making things better, solving more complex problems, finding within yourself which path you should travel, all those things. Yeah, I've been busy, too. Life is always in motion, always changing, and we cling to those things that don't while learning and re-learning to let go of that which does.

Oh, that's not what you've been doing? Right, you've ... tinkered with FRBR? And you're excited about RDA? No, no, I'm not disappointed, I just thought, you know, the last time we talked that we knew that was a bit of a dud, you know? That the future of the library isn't in, well, bibliographic?

Look, Library, I know you love your books, I really do, but didn't you agree with me that the world was more than just books? Yeah, so why are you still obsessing with them? Why is your world still revolving around small rectangular physical paper-based objects with words in them when there is simply so much out there? Heck, there's even all of that stuff in the books available in other formats and mediums, too, but you seem to just have a fetish for paper? What's up with that?

Can you just stop this obsession with books? It's not healthy for you. You go on and on about the measurements of the paper, what it weighs, you talk only about what it looks like, who wrote it, when it was written, who printed it, and so on. In fact, you go on and on about how to simply read and describe the title of the darn thing, and not once do you dig into the content of the thing to tell me what this thing is really about. Sure, you pop out some keywords about it, but seriously, you got all that from reading the sleeve cover, I mean, come on, have you even read the darn thing?

Look, I know why you do this; so that, through your brilliant description, others might find it when they search for whatever you described it as. The problem is that the ratio of getting it right for all people is about the word-count of the book itself. It's not good to have a few butchered select words about a tome of knowledge or inspiration. You're not helping people on their path with this sort of stuff. People are not interested in books. They are interested in its content.

You need to stop talking about books, and seriously - as in, right now! - start talking about content. Otherwise, all that will be left of you will be an epithet of what you once was. And I hate to see you down, my friend, I really do. But the power to change is from within. You will have to want to change. I'll help if you like, heck, we all will! We all love you and think you're the greatest, but seriously, you have got to change, you have got to shape up and lose that bibliopheliac addiction.

Ok, sorry to sound so glum and direct, I don't have the time for a long boring committee meeting. Thanks for the coffee, by the way, it was great. And great seeing you again, I've missed our little chats! Take care, ok? And call me if you need anything, alright? Love you. See you later.

24 June 2010

Updates : Hate and rage

Hi, folks. It's been quiet from me for the last little while. This whole "chasing up a new job" thing has kept me busy, and, to be frank, rather uninspired. But I should keep you updated (so I shall do that at the very end of this post), but I also need to vent before I explode!


That word I've just written up there? It's a synonym with "arsehole." (But wait, there's more! I could add 'incompetent' and 'nasty' without blinking!) Not because they will come right out and be arseholes; no, that would be terribly unprofessional of them and possibly lose them money. No, they are arseholes in a subtle but deviously efficient way.

I had a stint a few years ago dealing with recruiters when I wanted to quit working for the National Library of Australia. I sent out my CV, wrote letters, wrote emails, called and talked with them, on and on. Those experiences are mirrored by my experiences of late. But before I leap into a lament, let me ask you something, where "you" are people in companies and organisations across the globe who might be looking for good people to join their team :

Why the bloody hell do you use recruiters? What is it that you hope to gain from using them? Is it simply that you think that quality people are queuing outside their shop, waiting for those skilled recruiters to match the perfect candidate up with your perfect job description? Seriously? Is that what you think? Because if that's so, I feel the need to tell you that that is not what's happening.

Recruiters are evil. No, no, it's true ; they do not care about the people involved in the recruiting process, they care about their commission in doing so. They are evil, money-sucking bastards that don't give a rats ass about who they match with whom, and so in being arseholes they treat people like crap. Unless they feel there's a slight chance of a match they simple will not contact you, they will not answer your emails or calls. And what do they base their matchability on?

Shit skills. Every time and every single recruiter I've had the pleasure of "talking" with during this last month of riding the Boogeyman their complete lack of understand of what the hell I was talking about was shockingly clear. The client wants a senior developer with MySQL skills, and I say "No problem, I know mySql, in fact I've been doing Sizzle for the last year." You can hear the humming buzz on the line as the other side tries to process this. I say "It's a MySQL fork". More silence. "So, you haven't done any actual MySQL work, then? Ok, that's too bad ...", so I interrupt "What? No, I've done MySQL for years [I mean, for fuck sake, I've been a web developer since 1997!], I was just pointing out that I'm really into the matter of things and hack on forks and play around with unofficial features through MariaDB and ...". Recruiter breaks in with, "so, er, mariaDB, right, so no recent MySQL work, then?"

Or when asked about PHP I said I've done Zend Framework for years, which the job description mentioned as a bonus. "Right, but have you done any PHP work?" Or when asked if I know SCRUM, and I said sure, and that I've done a bit of MODENA of late as well. "So, no real SCRUM experience, then?" Or when asked about if I know XML well, and I say that, sure, I've even created a full Topic Maps engine in XSLT, written a canonical XML dataset serializer (for some obscure project), and get a "well, I meant if you have any core XML skills?" Obviously not. Or how about being asked

Look, people, you're putting these people in charge of finding you the best people? Please don't. Every company I get direct contact with I have a good open dialog with. Recruiters are fucking areholes who treat people like disposable napkins (fit for wiping their saliva from thinking about their commissions, I suppose), and you should not use their services. It's not good for your organisation, nor is it good for the progress of humanity.


Now, the update. It's very short; I had 6 good leads. I blew one (I aimed too high with that one), 2 were with recruiters (and obviously they don't get back to you unless someone has thrown money at them, so I'm counting them out as I cannot find out what the actual companies are), 2 are in Norway (and they're pretty good, in as much as if nothing else happens within days, we will decide to move back to Norway), and 1 up-in-the-air with a really funky company locally that has great potential (but might fail due to time).

So, all in all, we're in a pretty downy, unstable, crazy place. We're considering taking off for a couple of weeks in a camper-van and see the south coast, but we'll see. Frustrations are running high, and I think the family needs to chill for a little while.

Take care!

3 June 2010

Topic Maps visualisation

I've had a screenshot of a demo I made some time ago just lying around on my desktop, sulking for being forgotten and ignored for so long. I guess I wanted to polish the demo up and make it live at some point, but I've been distracted by a pandemonium of butterflies that has taken up room in my house of late, so I'm just going to dump it here ;

What you're seeing is parts of the Opera Topic Map by Steve Pepper represented as a Treemap (similar to the Protovis thing that Patrick linked to today), and the concept work well as a way to browse around the Topic Map itself, even through smooth zooming in and out of large and small groups of things.

The next fun thing is another tool I've made that takes some YAML structure or XTM as input, and create pretty decent graph representations of the map using GraphViz ;

This one is an ontology that is especially made for a portal I'm doing for Claudio Monteverdi, the baroque composer (and a hero of mine). Here's what a partial input looks to get the idea ;

        (c) Work:
            (i) L'incoronazione di Poppea:
            (i) Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria:
        (c) Form:
            (i) Madrigal:
            (i) Motet:
            (i) Canzonet:
            (i) Mass:
            (i) Trio sonata:
            (i) Opera:
        (c) Style:
            (i) Primo prattica:
            (i) Secondo prattica:
        (i) Monteverdi, Claudio:
        (i) Monteverdi, Baldasarre:

This method is perfect for sitting down with customers and clients, and just jot out models, ontologies and concepts; all you need is a text editor. (You'll notice that assocs are made through (c) (i) and a few others, which basically are assoc templates you can define more of, so a meta ontology for ontology construction. Yay! :) It's a couple of PHP classes (one of them being the PHP Topic Maps engine I've talked about before that I'll wrap up if I get some spare time) that generate DOT from the input, and serves up a generated image on refresh, so basically you edit the text file, save and hit refresh. Very fast. I might even consider an inbuilt editor in the browser, but pah!

Anyway, just a quick dump there. I'm also working on a far more complicated TM visualisation thingy using RaphaelJS to play directly on the HTML5 Canvas using native and SVG graphics, and it's looking very good so far. I'll show you more when things gets closer to something I won't hide in shame over ...