Here’s a brief video (3 minutes) showing the sort of fun we got up to while on our annual off-site research results presentations.
Not shown are the many hours of discussion around development processes, SCRUM methodology, vector-based user interface design, mobile phone market analysis. Also, the eating and drinking are best left as the overstuffed memories we all share.
The food and drink in Alta were stupendously good. Every night we were in for a special treat – trout, reindeer (of course), delicious soups. We were all heavier when we arrived back in Oslo than when we left.
We’ve just finished our new developer recruitment site: it’s our insiders view on what it’s like to work in the SuperOffice development department. Please take a look and see if you like it.
We threw the site together in a couple of days. The boss comes in and says he needs it by monday afternoon. We hand over the last bits of content monday evening, and then nothing happens for the rest of the week, because something else has come up instead.
It’s just one of the joys of being in close contact with the senior management: you get to see the decision-making process up close. Turns out management is like sausages. You are better off not knowing the details of what goes into making it.
Today: mainly spent watching SuperOffice 6 and IBM iSeries OS 5.4 fail to get on with each other. At least it appears to fail consistently, but only the gods of SQL know why. The SuperOffice diagnostics aren’t detailed enough to make a useful determination of the error. Oh – let’s be honest: problems during the initial dictionary loading are misleading at best. Of course, DB2 doesn’t help by offering such gems as PWS0043 “Unable to use the parameter marker values provided.” and SQL4013 “Access plan has not been built”.
This code was all working last week on AS/400 OS 5.3 – so I’m inclined to waggle a finger in its direction, but it would be helpful if it would tell us something more useful (such as the fact that it’s security model has changed, or that IBM’s decided that iSeries SQL is all lower-case this month, or the fact that the login failed due to the wrong phase of the moon). The bigger problem is that the login failure might be lost reported by DB/2, but not logged anywhere due to some old error handling code deep in the guts of our database handling logic.
Argh – frustrating for everyone.
Tonight: triple Arran whisky and the latest Spooks hot off bittorrent. (Spooks has returned to its roots – the current episode’s embassy hostage situation is a nice echo of the first season’s episode, but this time with more deaths, gunfire, and an extra dash of intrigue and double-cross).
Arran whisky: creamy, vanilla, delicious. Go get some for yourself.
Spooks: delightfully sadistic, violent, delicious. Go watch some now..
Jonathan Grudin discusses blogs and knowledge-management issues we face today. E.mail was in the same situation in 1984 that instant messaging is in today. Blogs and tags along with clever cluster analysis offer some hope of a bottom-up solution to KM issues.
The keynote was academic and based on a false dichotomy between the “second and third wave” of HCI.
The papers are academic and narrowly focused – but they mostly have practical results and some even have metrics to back up their arguments.
The design and industrial reports are more applicable, but don’t have the same rigor as the academic papers.
The organizers have done a great job – most of the talks have gone off without a hitch, and the reception with the Mayor last night was a treat.
SuperOffice makes a nice client.
SuperOffice also makes a set of programming APIs available to its partners. My job is to make sure that the hundreds of functions in the API have a bit of documentation and sensible explanations, so that our partners can figure out how to make SuperOffice do things.
This turns out to be harder than you might expect.
- Some partners are experts who want to know about very complex details in every part of the system.
- Some partners are more interested in joining SuperOffice and other systems together as fast as possible, and don’t want to spend a lot of time figuring out how to do it.
- Lastly, we have consultants who just want to add a bit of extra info to SuperOffice without having to do much (if any) programming to get results.
All these audiences need to find something useful in the API documentation, without being confused by what the others need.
To make life more interesting, the technology we provide is accessible in several different ways:
- old-fashioned COM APIs are very popular and by now well understood.
- the old-fashioned COM APIs can be imported into the new .net/C# world.
- SuperOffice have developed a whole suite of new tools for the .net/C# developer, the integration programmer, and the hurried consultant who doesn’t want to program too much.
So I spending a bit of time making sure that we write an explanation once, in one place, and having the results end up in several different places in the documentation as appropriate to the reader. The results are looking great.
After a long hard day of conferencing, the DevNet/SuperOffice team treated everyone to a free drink (just the one mind you), a magic show, and then gambling: blackjack, roulett, and Texas hold’em poker (where the real action was).
Can you tell who thought he was doing well here? And what did Tone (our QA lead) say to him to make him so happy and confident?
(I won the last hand with a pair of queens – it was everyone all in).
Jens also did really well on the roulette table. He scored a big win apparently. I scored an 8:1 bet – and I can tell why people lose themselves in it. I just suddenly felt a certainty that 7 was going to come up – and damned if it didn’t show up on the next spin. Freaky!
The magician came back to hand out the prizes at the end – SuperOffice employees weren’t allow to participate, so we had to give our hard-earned chips away to the partners and customers there. A blind auction ensued, with second-last prize (a bag of crisps) going for two million, while the last prize (an Xbox 360) went for just over a million.
A hardy few climbed back up to the sky-bar for a nightcap, but I collapsed into bed a bit after midnight.
The big day is finally here. Expander World is our developer conference. There are seventy people here – all building solutions on top of the SuperOffice platform. It’s a wonderful thing to see and meet so many people who are enthusiastic about what you work on.
Next year will be even better.
The people who run the SuperOffice DevNet site are called BV Network. They invited a bunch of their partners out for an evening of fun and guns. We took part in something called CounterStrike Live – indoor paintballing with AK-47 and M4 replicas. CounterStrike is something of an legendary online game – tense and unforgiving, it requires tactics and coordination for a team to succeed. The rules are simple: terrorists have a bomb that must be placed at one of two or three locations. The counter-terrorist squad must stop them. The question then becomes whether to split up or to defend one location.
Playing online is one thing, actually crouching and opening a door when you don’t know what is on the other side is much more exciting!
Paintballing outdoors is fun, but the long sightlines and open terrain can make the game trench-warfare. Indoor paintball tends to get messy because the larger blobs of paint soon cover everything like a slip-n-slide. The smaller pellets used here are less messy, so the floor isn’t as slippery. The indoor setting makes for a much closer playing field, so the tension ratchets up. Line of sight is usually broken by a door or wall. Office corridors are long, natural shooting galleries.
All in all – great fun. Much thanks to BV Network for inviting Per Arne and myself. The only downside is that the adrenaline high keeps you bouncing around till way past your bedtime.
The boss says it’s ok to blog about work, so I guess I’ll have to think of something interesting to write.
We’re a product development group – about twenty of us sit on one floor of the SuperOffice Tower in the center of Oslo and create the SuperOffice software.
Product development is a different beast to consulting-style or in-house development. When you have 100.000 installations you need to do a lot more testing. Consultants we hire to do specialized development tend to run into a wall when they encounter our test matrix. Shortcuts and short-sighted solutions that might survive when installed on a single customer site won’t cut it when faced with hundreds of different configurations, operating system versions, and security policies.