Annual Reviews


This year’s annual review process swung around fast! It seems like the team joined Ingram Digital just months ago. I’ve done them a few times, but this was the first review process I’ve done at ID. Reviews are a time for reflection. A time to make and receive input on how we’ve performed. A time to realize and face weaknesses and understand our strengths.

There were five appraisals of my developers, and one on myself. To normalize the results I did my self-appraisal first. I had everyone on the team do their own self-appraisal, too, but I avoided reviewing theirs until I’d done my appraisal of them. This was to make sure my scores weren’t skewed and to look for any disconnects.

I started by reading status reports I sent for the year. For the weeks without status reports I re-read email to make sure I didn’t miss any accomplishments. This was time consuming and highlights the need to maintain a tighter journal of deeds. I’ve done this for myself over the last ten years. Keeping a separate journal for one’s team is highly valuable and I’m going to start doing this beyond status reports.

My team rocks, and my entries in my self-appraisal are the result of their efforts. As I listed each accomplishment I thought, “My team made this. My team created that… I worked my face off, but what specifically did I do?” It’s strange to reflect on what one was responsible for, but did with the hands of others.

Appraisals for my team were less demanding after my own. For one, after this point I’d compiled the full list of the team’s accomplishments. For two, it’s easier to judge others after judging one’s self.

Some additional links on performance reviews:

Could someone buy something from EMS? Please!?

I’ve received 20 emails, nearly on a daily basis towards Black Friday, from Eastern Mountain Sports since November 3rd. I love the place and the people who work there, but this is getting a little stalker’ish.

EMS, you’ve got great deals so stop worrying about my frequenting REI (I only hooked up with REI once, remember?) Stop with the piles of email and crazy fire sales. You know you’re the only Eastern outdoor store for me.

PS: Everything is 25% off at EMS until 12/9 (when they will surely have another promo and email).

PSS: This post is a mercy post.

Google in my pocket during Bond Quantum of Solace (the Bolivian Desert)

Besides an absolutely killer Aston Martin opening chase and an even better dog-fight and parachute scene later, two things stuck in my mind from the latest Bond movie, Quantum of Solace.

First, James Bond driving hybrids. Ford got lots of hybrid vehicle product placement (listen for the electric motor during takeoff and stopping).

Second, the Bolivian desert. I didn’t know there was a desert in Bolivia. That ignorance induced the whip-phone-from-pocket reflex to load up some Bolivian geography (sociological pressure kept me from lighting a bright screen in a theater). It wasn’t the movie’s doing, but the ability to supplement one’s experience with personalized metadata is finally here. I’ll remember this when future grandkids ask when we finally started wearing computers.

The movie was good. Not as good as Casino Royale, but I’m liking this style of Bond more than any of the others.

For those stumbling upon this post looking for more on the Bolivian desert try these blogs, photos, and maps:

View Larger Map


Yesterday I openly whined about walking during a commute consuming precious time. I’ve been commuting from Malvern to the office and I want the shortest time, or at least the ability to do constructive work, between these points.

After looking around on Craigslist for some type of faster transportation I came upon an ad for the Subzero skate shop – liquidating their inventory. So I dropped by and met the owner, a dude about my age (low 30s) clearing out his stuff before remodeling.

Now, I’m not a skater. I did 1/2 pipes and crazy stair jumps on rollerblades as a teen, but I haven’t touched a skateboard since I was seven and did a faceplant on a 1980s’ish Santa Cruz shorty. I’m a two-planker on snow and snowboarded a handful of times.

But with such a good sale, I grabbed a longboard for a song and walked it back to the train (I was too embarrassed to give it a kick in public).

The previously 15 minute walk home from the station (downhill) was turned in to a carving session… Making turns on this thing was like snowboarding and a downright blast. And it was only 5 minutes.

We’ll see where this leads. So far it’s fun and shaves at least 15 minutes each way.

How to build a really successful web 2.0 service on top of another service and screw it all up

Twicecream – a fake service to demonstrate a point about single sign-on…

In web 2.0 there is a determination to screw up potentially great services. It’s my number #1 pet peeve with software development these days. Here’s a fictitious example of a service you might create…

You’ve built a service that automatically Twitters your geo-position and the name of an ice cream parlor when you’re in front of it. Your phone buzzes when an ice cream parlor is detected and begins sending photos to SnapTweet and TwitPic, including Zagats ratings and commentary. Other patrons respond back and generate conversations. This is your social network: Twicecream – a social network for twittering ice cream enthusiasts.

In front of Ben & Jerry’s on the Wharf, Zagats 4-stars, pics:

Congratulations! You just failed.

You didn’t fail by creating a service few would use. You failed because you didn’t utilize the authentication mechanism your patrons preferred. You built an unnecessary barrier to your garden by requiring an unnecessary account creation. Don’t do this, it’s arrogant and inefficient.

Your patrons have Twitter accounts. Twitter has an API. Your service should have asked the patron to log in with their Twitter credentials.

This isn’t just for social networking. This goes for all web services. SaaS solutions that require secondary account creations are a bad idea. Single sign-on, whenever possible, should be used.

The whole idea is to simplify access to what the customer needs. If you’re requiring unnecessary account creations, you’re screwing it all up.