Archive for October, 2008

Slugfest -Team blog, Team e-mail, or Team Wiki page?

Posted in Web2.0 Productivity, work with tags , , , on October 31, 2008 by Lance Strzok

So I feel honored that a friend of mine has asked me to help her leverage the web2.0 tools that we have in her work environment. I want this blog to focus on customer / team communications. I want to discuss the benefits of having a group or team communication channel, what options there are, and make a recommendation that they can use. I would love it if everyone that reads this would take a moment to share their thoughts or opinions.

Benefits of a customer to team account –

– There is one receiving location for questions related to work that anyone in the group may be able to answer. Since there are a number of people that may respond, the response time may go down which may improve customer satisfaction based on timeliness. The richness of the response may be greater when more people have the opportunity to weigh in on the topic at hand. You could think of it as a group response and by not using e-mail, selecting say a wiki or blog, there can be edits and modifications that make the response richer, and if chosen by the recipient, they can be notified of updates to the response beyond that of the original response.  If you choose a blog, you will need to make sure everyone in the group has admin privileges so that they can make edits to the responses. Additionally, you may want this information to be discoverable, search able, and retained for knowledge management. This means bringing it out of email silos and onto a platform that can meet those requirements. Once you make the decision to move it to a blog or wiki instead of email, then you get some of those benefits and some added flexability. Understand that email has its place, in short, use it for person to person conversations of a personal nature where you don’t want to expose that information to others. If it is work related, you should consider the group account.

Usage-

– Now we will need a notification system for when an email comes in. In email, that is pretty straight forward, in a blog, you will need to syndicate the reception feed and everyone will need to monitor that feed so that the awareness is high and response times are low. With RSS feeds, if you already have some set up, you can export your OPML file and share it with others so that they can import it and add it to their own. Or you can have a separate OPML file for the team that you want them to monitor. OPML files simply make sharing RSS feeds easier. In the case of a wiki, the notification system can be linked to your e-mail, or sometimes you wiki software may syndicate your changes so that you can monitor them with your RSS reader. Now having the question come to the team in one location (wiki or blog), needs to be linked to a threaded response so that you and they can choose to monitor that thread and not all questions and responses that come into or leave your team. You will want to link these blog or wiki entries together so that you can refer to all the other relevant blog or wiki entries. Your options here seem to be to set up a separate wiki page under the team page to address that customer and that they can watch, or direct them to a blog. I would think that sticking with one and not mixing the two would be easier then say receiving in a wiki and responding in a blog. I think I am most comfortable with wikis, so that would probably be my preference. In this case, I would receive a question on a wiki page that I direct customers too by including it in my signature. When they leave a question, I would create a response to that question as its own page, and establish links between the page I created and the reception page. Then in the response, link back to the reception area, and put together the response. Let the customer know where the response is and what options they have for viewing it, as well as getting updates for it. I would let them know they can choose to watch that page, respond to that page, or even edit that page. For this to work in a blog, I would have a common reception area, then start a blog in response to the customer, and both parties would monitor that blog with the appropriate links to other relevant blog entries.

E-mail –

– I have little experience with team e-mail accounts, so I would ask that people really fight for their ideas if they want to argue their points on the benefits of team e-mail accounts.  My immediate suggestions are that since they are not platforms, then your search engines may not be able to discover or search for information in that area, and it is not incorporated into the archive and backed up.

Recommendation –

– I vote for the wiki.

Implementation –

– Establish a mindset, explain what the team blog or wiki page is for, and how it should be used. I would mention that links are preferred to attachments, and that links between the receiving page and the customer thread be established and maintained. Monitor the activity and be ready and available for questions on specific issues as they arise. Work together as a group to figure out what you think is best, this may promote buy in by the individuals, and keep morale high.

Please leave your CONSTRUCTIVE comments below.

Open – Source Pros and Cons

Posted in School with tags , on October 13, 2008 by Lance Strzok

Open-Source Pros and Cons

Other advantages of Open-source code are low costs, potential engagement of many great minds on one topic to make it as good as it can be, efficient, or standardizing the interface. Responsive to changes was already mentioned, as well as a great way for new programmers to learn good practices in code development.

Disadvantages to open-source code may be primarily in support. If you imagine for a moment that a piece of source code was developed by me at home in my freetime, then you could imagine that if I were busy, or not able to spare the time, the support for bug fix’s may be low, and since there is no money driving my time on that project, then I may have to put it off, or not even get to it. Then the only hope is that someone else looks at the code and picks it up where I left off. Also, since I wrote it, then it is limited to my experience as a coder, not a team of well paid, experienced, and dedicated effort group that continually use good programming techniques. Standardization may be an issue as well. Could be difficult to maintain a standard if different people are writing to the same code.

I think that Microsoft and others that maintain proprietary restrictions on their code do so because they need to be able to get a return on their programming efforts to support new efforts as well as control the code so that they can provide robust and timely support to known software instances.

The disadvantages to maintaining proprietary code would be that it is costly, potentially slow depending on demand, and may not benefit from the great minds that are out there that may otherwise bring some improvements to their software if they were allowed to view and improve it.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_open_source_and_closed_source for more on this topic.

What’s in a URL?

Posted in School with tags , , , on October 12, 2008 by Lance Strzok

Garrett L. Strzok

Word Project ITS1015

What’s in a URL?

This article discusses Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) and how they are structured. This article also discusses how you can use this information to help when trying to find information or speed up your browsing.

URL is short for Uniform Resource Locator. In many browsers, this is a string of text located in the address bar that typically starts with http://… Each URL has several parts, and collectively they allow for a number of activities that people commonly do.

Lets take a moment and break down a URL with the following example:

http://www.google.com/tools/firefox/toolbar/FT3/intl/en/index.html

One way to break this down is to look at each part of the URL in the following way.

<URI scheme> <Host name> <File path> <File name>

This URL may also be viewed in this way.

<Method of communication> <Server name or IP physically located somewhere else><path to the file on the server> <File you are opening>

Looking at this first part   http: This is actually the scheme name part of a URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) and is terminated with a colon character ( : ). The remaining portion of the URI (//www.google.com/tools/firefox/toolbar/FT3/intl/en/index.html) called the scheme specific part, is a string of characters that is defined and interpreted in accordance with the scheme identified in front of it.

In this case, the http: is a URI scheme that is a protocol, but not all schemes are protocols.

“A protocol is a standardized means of communication among machines across a network. Protocols allow data to be taken apart for faster transmission, transmitted, and then reassembled at the destination in the correct order.” (Ref 1) The “Protocol” tells the browser how to communicate with the remote server when retrieving the target document. (Ref 2). A subtle point to be made is that URI schemes are often inaccurately called protocols since most of them were originally used with particular protocols. But today there are URI schemes that have nothing to do with protocols. There are several common schemes in use such as file: http: https: ftp: mailto: news: telnet: data: and many more.

Looking again at the URL, the second portion of the URL, (//www.google.com), we first understand this to be the name host of the server, or the domain name of the server. This domain name is equivalent to an (Internet Protocol) IP address and is used by Domain Name Servers (DNS) servers to help the network locate the physical location of the server and make the connection between the machine you are using, and the host server you are trying to connect to. Second, we also know that (//www.google.com) is interpreted in a way that is consistent with the defined structure that was established in the scheme portion of the URL, in this case the http:.

Another host or domain name that you may recognize is:

//www.yahoo.com – which is the server that is physically located in California and shown below.

Moving on to the (/tools/firefox/toolbar/FT3/intl/en) portion of the URL, we see that this is the path to the file on the server or host that we are connecting too. This is a path from your entry point on the server, this does not mean that you are located in the root directory of the server, you are often brought into the web portion of the machine you are connecting too, where the web content is kept and maintained. So your path is a relative path from where you are brought in. Now looking a little closer at this portion of the URL, we see that from the directory we entered, we were automatically directed to the tools directory, then to the firefox subdirectory, then to the toolbar subdirectory, followed by the FT3 subdirectory, into the intl subdirectory, and then the en subdirectory (the en here most likely means English language). So now we are in that directory.

The last part of the URL, (or this URI scheme specific piece that is defined by the http scheme), is the file name (index.html). This is the file that we are going to have broken apart, sent to our browser across the internet, reassembled and displayed in our browser. We also know that this file name is consistent with the scheme defined at the front of the URI, and that the scheme being used will be looking for a file that ends in .html or .htm to open when we get to the destination. There may also be other HTML files located in this directory, but our browser asked to open (index.html).

Now that we know a little about the structure of URLs we can discuss how this information may be used to improve your personal browsing experience. We can watch the URL as we browse, and start to see patterns in the sites that we visit. We can use this information to start to modify the URL directly to find what we are looking for. Some people call this URL hacking, and the term hacking usually carries a negative connotation, but there is nothing really all that negative about it. But where the line is between using the URL to speed up your browsing experience and being malicious is an area for debate. I have been looking at some of the things you can do with URL hacking, and some of it does start to venture into what I would personally consider to be questionable behavior. Things like inserting code into areas that you may otherwise be entering form data. Depending on the type of application you are interacting with, this can start to cause interesting things in the server. I may use this to surf faster, and I may use it to find information when I get a page not found situation, and still want to try to locate some information at that site. I also like to use certain URL tricks (hacks when searching in Google). One such example would be appending name=”as_qdr” value=”m7” which narrows your Google search to pages indexed within the stated number of months. (Ref 3).

In conclusion, I hope you understand more about URLs and can start to watch them when browsing, and learn about how you can use them to speed up your work and find things you are looking for faster. I know I have learned a lot more about how URLs, URIs, and how browsing works in general.


References

Ref 1 – CITES, What is a URL?, Dec 29 2003, Oct 10 2008, http://www.cites.illinois.edu/101/url101.html

Ref 2 – Williams College Department of Computer Science, URL protocal specifications, May 11 2000, Oct 10 2008, http://www.cs.williams.edu/~cs105s00/outlines/CS105_70.html

Ref 3 – Tara Calishain and Rael, Dornfest, 2003, Google Hacks, pg 32, O’Reilly Media Inc.

Software Piracy

Posted in School with tags , , on October 8, 2008 by Lance Strzok

Web Quest: Software Licensing and Piracy

1. Were you aware that for most software, the EULA appears when the program is first loaded and you must agree to it before proceeding with the installation?

1A Yes, I have seen this many times, and it is usually a good bit of reading. I have installed many programs, and I have generally began to trust those agreements without actually reading them.

2. Have you ever installed software without reading the EULA?

2A Yes I have installed software without reading the EULA.

3. What are some of the key conditions or restrictions of the EULA you’ve located?

3A I may install and use the software on any number of computers. I may not sell any part of this software as part of any other software. I may not distribute or host on a web server any part of the software without the permission of the owner. I may not reverse engineer, decompile, or disassemble this software. I can use ManicTime for commercial and personal use.

4. What are several of the key organizations involved with tracking and prosecuting software piracy?

4A I found a group called “Business Software Alliance” (BSA) that offers cash rewards to whistle blowers that report businesses that pirate software. I also found SIIA, another anti-piracy agency that is dedicated to reducing piracy issues.

5. What are the ramifications of software piracy? Do you think these problems have any impact on you personally? Why or why not?

5A When it comes to software piracy and its impact on me personally, I am sure that it does affect me. In short, for all the software that gets developed, and not properly compensated for, means that teams of people that develop that software do not have the resources (money) to continue further development. Some teams may stop all together, and others will have to lay off a couple talented programmers or find other ways to cut corners.  In the end, we all loose out on potential software.

6. How are software publishers attempting to prevent software piracy? Do you think these methods are effective?

6A Some software publishers are reporting piracy to BSA or SIIA and then being prosecuted for piracy. Some use special packaging that makes it hard to duplicate and sell as “legitimate” software when in reality it is a copy. Also, some companies have audit software that you can use to make sure all the licenses are being used properly.

7. Are the penalties for software piracy different for corporations than they are for individuals? Do you think this is fair?

7A Penalties are not the same for infringement by an individual or for a company. But I would think that per infraction makes it more fair. I am comfortable with it the way it is.

8. What steps can you take to ensure you will not become a victim of software piracy?

8A I can make it so that any programs I write or am a part of are registered with BSA, SIIA and have a license that you have to read before it is installed.