Friday, 24 April 2009
I like Scott Berkun's main blog and read it regularly. But now I'm also reading his new one that specifically covers public speaking. Lots of "how to fix" posts, and links to other tips and information. I was especially interested in the graph of heart rates falling as a lecture continued (in a university setting I believe) along with the recommendation to do something other than talk to folks every 20 minutes or less. Sounds like a good use for a demo!
Wednesday, 22 April 2009
I'm a very lucky person. I get great parking spots, I find money on the ground, I bump into people who turn out to be just who I needed to bump into, and so on. I was intrigued to read about a professor who can teach people how to be luckier. He recruited people who self-identified as lucky or unlucky, and then subjected them to tests that were not entirely based on chance (for example, not rolling dice or tossing coins) but that most people wouldn't think of as a game of skill. For example:
I gave both lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell me how many photographs were inside. I had secretly placed a large message halfway through the newspaper saying: "Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250.” This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was more than two inches high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it.
He has a list of principles to make yourself luckier. I'd say I do these things, and I agree they are likely why I am lucky. I suggest you give it a try. You may also be interested in his blog and youtube videos, which are mostly about "magic tricks" that are based on psychology but don't feel like it. I especially like "Colour Change." See if watching that changes your mind about anything.
Monday, 20 April 2009
Free or cheap software ... hmm ... not always a good thing, right? Well, what if it's from Microsoft? Plenty of utilities and add-ons are free, since they're only useful to people who already bought the main product, whether that's Office, Windows, or Visual Studio. Others are free as a deliberate decision to help introduce people to more powerful (and expensive) tools - think about all those Express Editions, for example.
Here's a comprehensive list, updated regularly, of goodies from Microsoft. I guarantee you will learn about a product you can use that you did not know existed. And this isn't some "bathroom wall" of links and torrents from a random person - this is the Windows Team Blog. I did stumble, a while back, across a laundry list from Blake Handler (a Microsoft employee) of free software from Microsoft that might have one or two things that aren't on the team blog.
Try some, and spread the word.
Saturday, 18 April 2009
I love reading Rands. He has such practical day to day advice for managing projects and people, and then he has some truly inspirational topics. You think you have a tough project? You think you have to invent half the technology you're using on the fly? Working with new unproven tools? Try building the Brooklyn Bridge. I guess it's the engineer in me (chemical, not civil) but I see bridge building as one of our most persistently amazing technologies. It also makes an amazing metaphor. I hope something I design, build, or project-manage lasts 120+ years, but I rather doubt any of it will.
And while I'm quoting Rands, you just have to read about The Pond. I have had a lot of variation, over the decades, in the amount of time I spend with my staff and the amount of time they spend with each other. I wish his pessimism about the fate of those who work remote all the time was misplaced - but unfortunately, I think he's right. If you work remote all the time, you need to think about how to be in the pond.
Both highly recommended.
Thursday, 16 April 2009
Well, a lot. Brian Harry has provided a feature list, and a secret decoder ring to help you decide which blogs to read to learn more over the coming months. My personal favourite? "Work item hierarchy & linking". If that means what it sounds like it means I will have a much simpler life when planning a project the way I often do - starting with big things and later breaking them down into small ones. I'll be watching for more details on that.
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
Do you have a Windows application? Are you curious if it will run well on Windows 7? Would you like to try something a little more technical than "install on Windows 7 and see if it runs?" Then you need the Application Compatibility Toolkit. The latest version, 5.5, is now available. There is documentation for it on TechNet to help you get started.
Sunday, 12 April 2009
People believe a lot of strange things in this world. They worry specifically that SharePoint won't perform as well as they need, and that they can write some sort of ASP.NET app with a SQL backend that will somehow outperform it. I really liked this post from Eric Shupps that lists a few of them. Keep in mind these are all myths - that is "not true".
- SharePoint Lists Have an Upper Limit of Two Thousand Items
- SharePoint Is Just Too Slow for Common Tasks
- SharePoint Is Not Suitable For Large Public-Facing Web Sites
- SharePoint Isn’t A Scalable Enterprise Document Management System
- SharePoint Pages Take Too Long to Render Over the WAN
Eric goes into quite a bit of detail debunking each of these 5 myths, so if you have a tendency to believe these things, here's a chance to get straightened out on that.
Friday, 10 April 2009
I think one of the things that really sets good presenters apart from poor ones is what they do when something goes wrong. A poor presenter:
- needs all their cycles to try to figure out what went wrong, and has none left for looking after their audience
- is focused on making the demo work and sticking to the original plan
- is rattled by the experience so that whether the demo works in the end or is abandoned, the rest of the talk is lower quality
A good presenter:
- has rehearsed the demos many times, so that most "boom!" moments have been seen before and can be fixed quickly
- doesn't need as much energy to look after the audience, so is more likely to be able to do it
- is focused on making the talk work
- has backup (screenshot of the result, an exe that was built earlier) so that something can be rescued
- can get through the failure quickly and get back to the flow so that the talk as a whole can go well
I linked a while ago to a picture of Steve Teixeira dealing with a blue screen. Now Brad Abrams has highlighted Bill Buxton (who I quoted a few posts ago) dealing (at Mix) with hardware that refused to co-operate. I aspire to do as good a job dealing with demo failure. Brad includes some other "demo failures at Mix" in his post, too.
A tip that has served me well over the years: have a stock of optimistic "I am not an idiot" sentences to use while you're either giving up on the demo or doing what you need to do to make it work. "Hey, if it was perfect, we'd be shipping it" is good. So is "told you it would be a short demo". Humour keeps the audience with you, and stock lines don't take up much of your brain, so you can be furiously thinking with most of your brain about how to solve your problem (either how to fix the demo, or what to do with the rest of your talk now that you have ten more minutes to fill.)
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