May 12 2010

Planning for Astoria trip

Published by at 8:04 pm
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This weekend we’re going on a trip to Fort Steven’s state park. Camping, fishing, hiking, geocaching, sight-seeing, and of course relaxation. It’ll be a nice chance of pace since half the trip we will be in nature, and half the trip we will be in a luxurious hotel on the pier. To help plan for the trip, tonight I wrote a pretty cool LINQ to XML application which parses GPX files and produces an grid output of cache information which I then copy and paste into excel. I’m pretty excited about it because it’ll make prep work for going geocaching lightning fast. Who knows, maybe I might perfect the application, add more features, and then sell the thing.

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May 05 2010

XNA Development Continues

Published by at 8:33 pm
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Game development on our new XNA Xbox 360 game has continued in recent weeks. We’ve been getting together after work on Wednesdays so that’s at least a dedicated day for development and whenever we have spare time in the evening during the week. We also of course brainstorm at lunch about it. So far we’ve re-assembled the team again and it’s got some good steam.

Victor Laurence aka “CyberVic” – Executive Producer / Lead Developer
Victor Hermenzie aka “Voctor” – Executive Creative Director
Kerin Dimeler-Laurence aka “PDXYarnHo” – 2D Vector Artist
Dave aka “DaveUK” – Soundtrack
Robin aka “Hat the Red”- Writer
Aric aka “Baldun” – Developer

Voctor is working on the Game Design Document and doing quite well. He already has all the skills laid out for the classes (something like 144 unique skills) and built out the 3 tech trees for each class in diagram form. I’ve been doing well development wise. Taken the game from a simple fly around and shoot other player ships game to a game where there is dynamic random “spawning’ asteroids that are destructible, enemy ships spawning and attacking nearest player ships with basic fly strait at you attack AI, a shield and hull indicator on the HUD, a current target name/shield/hull indicator on the hud, an experience system, a skill system with togglable active skill with cooldown indicated on the HUD, and finally a reworking of the basic flight / shooting engine with a speed boost system for player ships.

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Feb 18 2010

Leadership

Every once and a while I like to reflect on what I enjoy most about what I do. It’s kind of interesting to look through all of my experiences, previous self reflections, and currently where I am in my life, career, etc. Most of all I think about my experiences and which of those experiences I get the most fulfillment from, whether they are technical, managerial, or leadership oriented. Of all of my experiences in both personal and professional, I think that I enjoy any kind of managerial / leadership position where I’m helping a team build and perform. Mostly, I love supporting others.

Leading a strike team of developers on CPWeb over a 6 month process to resolve security flaws in a decade old web product. My time as an alpha medic, representing the players of Tabula Rasa, communicating to the developers on how they could improve the class. My experiences as a Admin / Developer / GM of Obsidian, helping shape a world for other players to enjoy. The ongoing saga of and all that guild has meant to me, leading a community of players who have like minded, respectful, play style. My attempts to start a leadership resource website for MMO leaders, giving them resources to learn how to be better leaders and write articles on leadership styles and techniques and my conversation with John Kotter about the idea and his support of the concept. All the volunteer work I’ve done to help small business, organizing volunteer efforts for work, and helping provide feedback to how we can improve our respect for remote colleges in a globalized corporation. My time as a manager of software development, both improving my product, managing a small team of developers, and all while making vast improvements to the product and customer delight. My attempts at leading an independent game studio to develop an XBox 360 title with a team of people spanning the globe from the UK, to the east and west coast of the US. If you really want to boil it down, my role as a healer in an MMO is because I enjoy being in that supportive role, helping others succeed.

All of these accomplishments I’m deeply proud of. All of these accomplishments have a central theme: they involve leadership and supporting others.

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Oct 02 2009

It’s great to be coding again

Published by at 12:04 pm
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Between diving back into ecoAsset Manager 11 and development work for my senior project, I don’t know… I feel like I can take on the world right now.  I feel like I haven’t felt in a long time, just being able to dive in and develop code. Good, clean, functional, fast code.

I’m especially enjoying doing more and more with LINQ and Entity Framework.  It’s so fast to be able to bang out querries which you MIGHT be able to write in as little time in pure SQL, but the beauty of how LINQ handles the queries for you is awesome. Plus, you know that due to the strongly typed nature of the Entity Framework, that your query will WORK as you write it. There’s no ambiguousness that your query won’t work. Maybe sometimes you might still inject some business logic wrong in the query, but basic run of the mill queries are a compile time validation activity. I just hope that in .Net 4.0, they resolve some of the minor annoying things when dealing with the Entity Framework like how to manage related data.

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Sep 15 2009

What DO I want?

I was asked to day by someone today, who I highly respect:

What do you want to be doing?

I didn’t really have an answer for him. Partially because I don’t even know how the cards will fall and what the reporting structure and new career paths will be when things are done. Right now the best I can tell anyone is what I DON’T want to be doing.

I made a conscious effort many years ago to pursue a role in some kind of leadership or management position. I enjoy it. I was given the opportunity. I think I shined in my role I’ve been taking in the last year. Overall, there are very few things I think I would have done differently. Anyone who REALLY knows me, it gives me a lot of personal pleasure helping guide a team, large or small, to an inevitable victory. I get the most pleasure from assisting others than doing individual things myself. While individual accomplishments are great and all, I’d rather see the whole team succeed (of course that includes my success too, I’m no martyr). I think in some level once you’ve reached a certain point in your career, you need to have ownership of something bigger, something visionary. I’m well past that point today. I mean, look at why I keep getting guild leadership on my lap so quickly. I’m hedging bets right now on how long I’ll be in Heretic before I’m approached about becoming an officer.

On top of my personal level of enjoyment in leadership and management, I also personally believe that I’m not all that great of a developer. I know I keep bringing this up. I know that many people SAY that I’m an amazing developer who does wondrous things, has a grand mind for architecture, and has an amazing combination of skill sets… I don’t know I don’t believe it. I think I’m a mediocre developer with lots of crazy ideas and some of those pan out to be good ones and that makes people notice me. As a “skillful” developer, again I think that I struggle keeping up with all the new moving parts and changes to technology. I know enough to be able to come up with vision and product prototypes, but I’m not really great at producing something… well I guess I am. Yeah OK, I am what everyone says, but I think I’m much better at other stuff. I have more POTENTIAL in pursuing a position with some kind of leadership component to it.

Most of all, I don’t want to be an individual contributor on a team that simply writes common components. That’s not fun to me. I don’t think that would have ever been fun for me, even in my early career. I’ve always enjoyed owning a single product or core piece of a product, than writing behind the scenes common components?!? I’d rather be an individual contributor on a single product that I can have some shared personal ownership of something that’s being given to a customer. I’d rather be the leader of a common components team. I’d rather be an individual contributor on an architecture team, due to the fact that even individual contributors on a team like that help guide other teams, assisting them improve how they do things. I don’t know. Maybe I’m overly thinking things, but I’ve never been on a team that built common components for consumption in other products. I really don’t think I’d enjoy doing that work. Maybe leading it, but not being an individual contributor.

Sigh. What’s worse is that as part of my final 2 courses for school, completing in 5 weeks now, I’ve been HAVING to update my resume and talk with career advisers. It’s bad enough that I’m pissed off about how horribly my pay has been handled at work, it’s worse that I have people at my school reminding me of the fact that with my degree, grades, and experience I shouldn’t have to take this crap. The problem is that at the end of the day, I LOVE the company I work for and I think they will do me right eventually. I’m just not sure how much longer myself or my wife can stomach “eventually”.

Right now I’m trying to focus on our yearly user conference next week. I’ve been preparing screen mock-ups of the next release for presentations and working on concept screens of the new development we’re planning for 2010. Hopefully the cards will fall sometime in the next week or two. Maybe once the OTHER stuff is set in stone, things will be easier to see how I fit and where I want to be. Right now, being a nomad in no-man’s land is not fun.

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Sep 03 2009

Limits of Sacrifice

Published by at 5:35 pm
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As soon as I thought life was going back to normal, well it wasn’t quite normal anymore.

I’m in my final classes finishing my degree finally. Career development and my Senior Project. School stress is coming to an end and less than 7 weeks now and I’ll have my degree. Most likely I will be graduating with a 4.0 gpa with highest honors.  I’m done moving into my new house and pretty soon I’ll have 2 wonderful kitties. I’ve given up on guild leadership and joined a well established guild (http://www.pakcafan.org) so there’s no more stress  in my gaming life anymore. In theory I should be at probably one of the lowest stress points in the last 3 years right now, but I feel like I’m at the peak of it.

My role at work is also changing and it’s probably one of the most stressful career changes in my life. I’m not quite sure how to put it in words what I’m going through. Whenever I’m confused and stressed, particularly at work, I look to HBR and John Kotter.

Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there. – John P. Kotter

Sacrifice is something that I’m familiar with. But right now I’m starting to wonder if I’m sacrificing too much. I’ve been challenged with a pretty tough new role in the company, but I feel like while I’m putting in a lot into this role people aren’t giving me the support I need. My role isn’t being well defined and on top of that, there’s no real promotion I’m getting with this role change even though it’s more responsibility and stress. I mean I could deal with an ambiguous job description with the right pay or I could deal with continuing to be screwed on pay if there was a concrete job description and level of empowerment / responsibility. I also feel like there is a bunch of stuff people… one person in particular… isn’t telling me. I don’t like being treated like a mushroom. I continue to press forward in my new role, trying to establish vision, coordinate with others, and make myself and the entire domain successful, but I dunno… something is missing. Maybe I should be patient. Maybe things will just work themselves out. I just… don’t know what to think right now.

My general mood is rather manic right now. I swing from overly enthusiastic, ready to face the challenge head on to really self doubting, depressed, stressed out, and pissed off. It’s a very odd feeling. I want to stay positive, but meh. We’ll see. We’ll see…

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Jun 10 2009

Skin-it-like-I-mean it

Published by at 3:12 pm
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WCSF, MVP, Themes, Master Pages, Nested Master Pages, CCS, Skins, AJAX, GridView, DetailView, Entity Framework, oh my!

I’ve been working on a good working top-to-bottom example of my new “LakeView” project which is the C# rewrite of the project I manage development of  onto the Environmental Domain architecture.

This version demonstrates a proper implementation of WCSF’s architecture, using Mike’s (see “Hoarked” on my blog roll for his blog) SCF project blueprint, utilizing the MVP presentation pattern, using .Net 3.5 controls including AJAX, business modules for business logic, foundational modules for data access including LINQ queries to the Entity Framework. I’m using ObjectDataSource controls in conjunction with GridView and DetailView controls inside an AJAX update panel. The page itself is EXTREMELY code light aka “dry” with only a few lines of code on it. The ObjectDataSource is doing all the heavy lifting, hooking data events from the DataView and DetailView controls to business logic methods in the presenter.

Furthermore, I’m also have implemented Brian’s latest GUI design which is a 100% full height design which dynamic adds a scroll bar in the middle of the page if there is too much content. I’m not using IFrames or anything gross like that, using the CSS property “overflow: auto” to control the scroll bar and adding an inital fixed height which is being adjusted based on the browser’s viewable space dynamically via JQuery. I have Matt to thank me for that tidbit. I also have multiple Mike’s internally who helped me with the new database schema as well as working through the technology portions.

Still have to work on the master pages a little bit more, implementing a few more complex details like a smooth implementation of the tab selecting, product name and version pulled from the assembly file, bread crumbing, and any other updates Brian thinks of before I’m done with this. Then I can start distributing to the other domain teams and making sure they are using it properly with no code changes. I want this to be one of the key pieces that we share with no project custom alterations so that way when we update it, we update it for one product and roll it out to the other projects.

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Apr 14 2009

New Database Design

Published by at 9:05 pm
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Really made headway today on the new database design.

I’m starting by dumping all the completely useless tables which drive the UI part of the old UI framework. I’m also consolidating a bunch of tables that are uselessly 1 to 1 for no good reason. For example user data is spared out between about 12 different tables and user privileges are sparsed out in about 10 different tables. I think that we’re going to go with a fundamental redesign of roles and rights in the software, so for now I’m simply dropping those tables and compressing the user tables into the 3 or so tables that need to exist. From there I’ll start converting the easy stuff, mostly correcting logical problems with table relations, clean up PK, FK, Tables, and Column names. Oh and also dropping all the SP’s and Views since those won’t be necessary anymore once we start using the Entity Framework. I will of course look at the old database for purpose of learning some of the SP logic to keep that in the new development, but it’s not necessary in a project LakeView database.

My hope is to have the majority of the database redesigned by the end of the week or at least cleaned up so I can import the current database into VISIO, map out the entities in a clean way, and have a good ERD discussion with Gloski and Michael, possibly comparing it to the way the EPA, the EU, and most importantly how customers think of the data.

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Apr 13 2009

Project LakeView

Published by at 4:47 pm
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As Michael and I continue to develop the business case, drivers, and road map for the upcoming project, Michael made the suggestion that we give it a code name: LakeView.  I think it’s kind of neat to be using code names because that means I can talk about it in a more concrete named fashion without giving it a version number or using the infamous word that seems to scare people the “R” word.

I’m really excited about Michael’s enthusiasm to the project and he even brought up some other business drivers I hadn’t even thought about. I mean I was mostly doing this for three purposes: fix architecture issues that cause new feature implementation to be painful and slow, drive up customer delight, and fix other architecture problems that makes hosting multiple customers on one machine near to impossible. Michael piled about 10 other BIG things on top of that along with all my smaller bullet points that explain my main drivers. He also pointed out initiatives he needs for the software in the coming years and those initiatives would be near to impossible on the current architecture.

At this point we just need to communicate our new plan up the chain of command and get buy in from key stakeholders. Michael is going to drive approval up the business side of the organization. Gloski for example is a key stakeholder who needs to feel comfortable about the plan since he does carry the pulse of the customer. My job is to get full buy-in from the IT organization: Andrew, Tim, all the way up the ladder.

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Apr 11 2009

It’s good to be coding again

Published by at 9:51 pm
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I’ve been coding all day today and all last night. Yes, I’ve been coding on a Friday and Saturday pretty much. It’s so good to be coding again. I got the site converted over to using the newest blue print from Kenyon’s team and going forward on starting to build out the skeleton of the site as well as doing some proof of concept moving data from the Entity Framework up through the WCSF layers and presented in a loosely coupled way on the user interface. So far everything has been fun and exciting and even fixed a few bugs on the master page / CSS while I was at it.

Next week I think my focus will be the database. I don’t want to go too far into development before doing a redesign of the database. Any good data application starts at the database and works it’s way up. Although I can start from the UI and go down. Either way the middle two layers need to wait until the bottom is built appropriately.

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