'Beta' is the new CYA

Nick Bradbury has an interesting post about the new connotation associated with software designated as ‘Beta’. ‘Beta’ used to mean buggy and unstable. Now, more people associate ‘Beta’ with ‘solid version with not as many features’. He brings up a good point about GMail being in ‘Beta’ status for years, despite the service itself being fairly rock solid.

Which brings up an interesting question: Why mark a piece of software as ‘Beta’ in the first place?

Personally, I think it’s because companies want to point to that ‘Beta’ if something goes wrong. “Hey, sorry you lost all your data, but we TOLD you it was in Beta.”

Giving a piece of software a version number or a release name implies a level of service between the software company and it’s users. If it’s ‘Beta’, there’s no expectation of quality, service or support. That seems a little CYA to me.

Brilliant

Wow, this is a great vid. Really well done and worth the 9 mins it takes to watch it. Ironically, this is actually statistics related. The two possible bad outcomes he refers to are called “Type II” and “Type III” errors in hypothesis testing:

Blogging for O'Reilly

Around the end of march, xml.com site editor Kurt Cagle put out a call for writers. I submitted my resume of sorts and Kurt was kind enough to make me a blogger! I will be trying to concentrate on the semantic web and associated technologies.

You can check out the XML.com blog here and my first post is here.

We have a good group of authors contributing, so do yourself a favor and subscribe to the feed if you aren’t already.

Here’s hoping I don’t make too big of a fool out of myself.

Twitter

A little over a year ago, I decided to start using twitter to see what all the fuss was about. I quickly bagged it because I just did not see the benefit of subscribing to the itty-bitty thoughts of a large group of people and I quickly was forgetting to tweet myself. The whole thing stagnated.

However, about a week ago, I decided that maybe it might be time to give twitter another shot. I did so for one particular reason. While I still don’t think that twitter is compelling as a desktop app, what is making me come back is the mobile and local component. A twitter client on my iPod Touch could be a compelling view into what’s happening locally, either here in Chicago or wherever I am. So, I reactivated my account and began to set things up on my laptop / desktop. I started by downloading my old favorite client, Twitterrific and setting it up on my computers.

That was three days ago. Below are photos documenting my entire twitter experience over the past three days:

First up, shots of my OS X client Twitterrific:

Picture 1.png

Picture 2.png

Those photos have been constant. “No problem” I say, i’ll just use the site for a little bit. Well this is an example of what i’ve gotten from their site:

Server.png

Now, I don’t care what technology they’re using or how many users they have, this is just a joke. You’re sending small pieces of text across the internet. This shouldn’t be this hard right? I mean how many IM services stay up with no problems? Granted, this is a little different, but not my much. We’re talking YEARS that twitter has been out and they’re still having these problems.

Geez….

Persistence

Whew….I’m going to start off my first blog post in 7.5 months with a quote from Calvin Coolidge:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”

It’s with that that I explain my absence a bit. About 2 years ago, when I first started working for TrackAbout, I made the decision that I would use the opportunity of working from home to the fullest extent. That meant I would go back to school and finish the bachelors that I had been working on for the better part of a decade. My new bosses were on board with the idea, as long as it didn’t hamper my ability to deliver at work. After transferring from Aurora University, where I was double majoring in Mathematics and Computer science, in the spring of 2001, I enrolled at the University of Illinois at Chicago ( UIC ), with a declared major of Statistics and Operations Research. I spent a year at UIC, going to school full time. In the Summer of ’02, I decided that I would work full-time instead of going back to school. I made the decision that I wanted experience over education. Over the next few years, I took a class here and there, but nothing major.

Finally, after leaving Mobitrac and starting at TrackAbout, my decision was made. I was going back. I decided I would get it done as quickly as I could, while still fulfilling my duties at TrackAbout. Since I had ~30 hours left, that meant taking ~10 a semester for 3 semesters. Because of a scheduling goof, I actually didn’t enroll in classes until the Spring of ’07.

When explaining my decision to people, they often ask “Why go back?”. After all, I have a good job & a pretty successful career which hasn’t been hindered by a lack of a degree. So why do it? Well, I bounced things around in my head until I came to this final conclusion:

In the end, the degree was something big in my life that I started and I wanted to finish it.

That’s not to say that every person needs to get a degree to be successful. Far from it. If I never started college, I doubt I would have gone through it all. I know several very successful people who are 10x smarter than some college graduates I know. Life is all about what you make of it and a college degree is just one optional component. In the end, I didn’t want to look back at my life and see something I quit at. Especially something so big. That’s why I went back.

Well, after 1.5 years of intense studying, I am happy to say that I am now a college graduate.

That’s where the quote comes in.

Going back to school while maintaining a normal, 50-hr a week full time job was going to be tough. Unfortunately, around Nov ’07, the TrackAbout engineering team lost a team member and our head count went from 4 down to 3. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we were staring down the barrel of a Jan 1st deadline for not one but TWO very large, company changing projects. They were:

  1. The roll out of a new order integration system for one of pilot customers. This is an end-to-end, completely paperless system of placing and delivering orders.
  2. The first customer of our brand new partnership with TECSYS, a supply chain management software company, was going live on Jan 1st. They were going live with our standard tracking solution, rental bill generation module and the TECSYS EliteSeries Distribution Management Systems (DMS) offering. We, TrackAbout and TECSYS, were completely replacing their exiting system(s). Needless to say, a sizable chunk of our targeted vertical was going to be watching the rollout and we needed to impress.

Whew….there was a lot to do and I had to balance work and a school curriculum that included classes like:

  1. Applied Statistics for Engineers
  2. Intro to Mathematical Probability
  3. Nonparametric Statistical Methods

Needless to say, I felt like quitting SEVERAL times. I tried to come up with every excuse I could think of. “I didn’t need the degree”, “I could finish up next semester”, “I can go back another time”, etc….

But I didn’t quit. I sucked it up, quit my whining and pushed through. Which brings me to the quote I started this post with. Looking back at the past 5-10 years of my life, the one thing I can point to that made me successful isn’t intelligence, upbringing, luck or chance.

It’s perseverance.

I succeeded simply because I didn’t let myself fail. Initiative and hard work will get you ahead of 70% of the people out there. A lot of people are plagued by procrastination, laziness or simply a reluctance to sacrifice. I meet lots of people in my life who think I’m lucky or that I am in a good field and being in computers makes it easy to be successful. However, people don’t see the hard work that goes into being employed in the tech industry. Sure, they see the cool toys or the nice paycheck, but they don’t see the support phone that you have to sometimes carry. Nor do they when you have to cancel plans because of some problem with work. Or how about the difficulty in scheduling a vacation? People don’t realize that when tech people go on vacation or take days off, our work doesn’t go away. It’s there for us when we get back. Only now, we’ve shortened the time we have to get it done 🙂

In the end, I’m extremely happy I went back and finished. I’m also extremely happy I am done now. I now have free time again and just in time for the summer. Especially since I hear the Cubs are winning the world series 🙂

Well, I can dream, can’t I ?