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Preview: Elizabeth Grigg - Developer / PM

Elizabeth Grigg - Developer / PM

Leaving the code nicer than I found it.

Last Build Date: Mon, 12 Jan 2004 16:41:34 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2004 Elizabeth Grigg

Mon, 12 Jan 2004 16:41:34 GMT

New Weblog:

New RSS Feed:

This radio userland site will probably be taken down in 15 days or so, according to their renewal warnings. The new site is written on CityDesk, and uses the TabletPC. It lives on an ordinary site. My email address won't change, it's The 9000 is an artifact of the fact that egrigg was already taken - imagine! And of course a tribute to the famous drum solo called SnackMaster9000.

Lots has happened since I posted here: new job, new kid on the way, new computer. I sweltered for awhile on how to do a blog. I wanted to do a tablet blog, but I can't blab about my company. Then there was that guy who got fired - really took the steam out of blogging for me. I finally settled on an ink blog that talks about food at microsoft. It's something I care about, has a low common denominator, and won't take but a minute to write about. At some point I'd like to run an experiment to see if there's a way to live off of all the free stuff hanging around exclusively - no restaurants, no grocery stores. We'll see.

Hope you enjoy it. The RSS feed is text which I'm maintaining as a parallel path. The permalinks are "perma-inks" and go to the ink blog which is the main url of the site. It's certainly easier to post via ink - let's see if it's just as easy to read.


Mon, 27 Oct 2003 22:48:29 GMT

As an aside, a day like today is like getting a new Neal Stephenson novel, the new Harry Potter 6 in addition to season 3 of 24 on the same day, You can't just say "so, what happens?" The answer is too long. There's no way to wrap your brain around all the information that was prohibited to you just yesterday.

Mon, 27 Oct 2003 22:45:50 GMT

Nothing in this article on MSDN by Robert Grimes to contradict the predictions I made a couple of weeks ago. The following questions on WinFS remain:

1) How is all this metadata going to be entered? If entered automatically based on usage, how to make that entry open to all modes of use? For example, a web-based email program cannot be released "for longhorn" and therefore cannot carry the ability to update files with metadata (such as "sent to bob on 2/10").

2) How do the users update the metadata once it's in there? What happens to users who refuse to understand the concept of metadata and won't play along?

3) What does all this look like, when you're "looking at your file system" if there can be such a term?

This entire WinFS effort is just to answer the age-old question of "Where the heck is my file?" This question is asked by users, and answered by the OS. It's far less important that we have lovely "select from where" T-SQL running about. This is just one implementation. I am worried that the cart is before the horse here. Improve the technology, fine, but as a 10th generation product (windows) you have to provide a bridge to the old concepts.

I'll refrain from further criticism until I see some screenshots. (And no, not screenshots of the about box.)

Wed, 22 Oct 2003 19:12:56 GMT

Isn't this the smartest person on earth?

Jonathan Sapir writes about the evolution of IT as he has implemented it through web services. This is a dream-come-true from a vision explained in a Harvard School of Business article from 2001, a pdf which I have misplaced and tried to find many times. The gist is out with the old, custom, local apps, in with the new, synchronized on-line apps and dumb(ish) terminals. Glad to see people following through on the potential.

And if anyone knows which harvard article I am talking about, send me a link! I'm bereft!

Wed, 22 Oct 2003 19:02:03 GMT

This conference (The O'Reilly Emerging Technology) looks like tons of fun, and I hate conferences! What won me over was Russell Beattie, Cory Doctorow, and Andrew Huang (is that you?). In lieu of going, I'll just read all the speaker's books and weblogs. Note to people doing conferences: in-jokes and movie quotes in the seminar title WORK. It's a good idea. Attendees figure the talk will be a fun time if the speaker has the same sense of humor / seen the same movies that they have. Somewhat like a demographic "if you liked this..." filter.

Wed, 22 Oct 2003 17:49:32 GMT

A team of industry-affiliated composers pulled off an acoustic show last night, featuring music written in the classical vein for instrumentation such as string quartet. At the secret waffle party afterwards, I picked up the micronews off of an inviting stack, where the concert was briefly mentioned (yay, Ben!). The point of the SoundCurrents series is that great music is happening right under your nose. Often it gets little or no fanfare, as it's too expensive or awkward to get a run-through much less airplay or other such collective-consciousness embedding maneuvers. Contrast with software, where every little thing gets posted and broadcast for download as long as it barely compiles. Music has one advantage in that it has inherent value even when broken or unfinished. It deserves a listen, because this is the only chance you might get to press F5.

This event was like a "this is your life" for me personally, with friends and associates I've known forever, family, and new friends. I tried my mac joke out on Geoff Ogle (the one where we try to have 20 kids to make sure one is a mac user) which fell flat. Make fun of their market share all you want, the design is solid. I finally met Ben Houge who writes music just like I would if I hadn't gone in to software (luscious, frenetic tonality, adventurous but not cliffhanging). Scott Selfon wins the award for effortlessly sounding most like a movie soundtrack. Also in attendance was Steve Ball (a blogger from before the dotcom boom, if that can be believed), Andrea Wittgens (who I told expressly not to start egosurfing becuase it shows up on the referrer list and makes you look like a chump), and Tim Root (who is the sweetest guy ever, and has a few nasty things to say about "pretty music"). Here's to keeping the concert series going!

Tue, 14 Oct 2003 00:43:15 GMT

In 2001, I was too busy to catch Po Bronson's apology. And the default song, always in my head, is the sock puppet singing "Please don't go."

Mon, 13 Oct 2003 18:05:59 GMT

Yay, Brad Wilson is building his own blogging tools. The great thing about this is he can put in exactly what he wants, no 80/20 rule or other nonsense for ruling out key features. The problem with 80/20 is that it's a key to mediocre sales. Lots of people get your product, but few will be impressed. Better to hit a home run with only a few customers, build from there.

Sat, 11 Oct 2003 00:52:26 GMT

Another clue to WinFS: Mazner's article on "why" it's needed. This pretty much gives it away to anyone with any imagination. Here are what the headlines will be (I predict):

1) A flat file system that contains rich, automatically populatable metadata useful for querying. This turns "my pictures" into a query onto your hard drive, and nothing is missed.

2) Strict pattern and behavior tools are in place to keep the metadata accurate. For example, a downloaded image of a spokesperson from a banner ad (Dr Phil) should not show up in my pictures. The OS knows it came from a banner ad, and flags it accordingly.

3) Friendly file names different from actual file names. In fact, we may never know what a file is actually called anymore in usage. Friendly file names are like long comments, a "who am i" exposed concurrent with the file itself. A business card. We will never see the actual name.

all this would be wacked if not for 4) A kickin editor that lets people correct the metadata (attributes) of a file. With most metadata being added automatically by the OS, this means that you are effectively rewriting a file's history by editing the metadata.

Oh, why keep us guessing?

Fri, 10 Oct 2003 05:22:04 GMT

I'm telling everyone I know who's going to the PDC to keep an ear out for me on one topic and one topic only: WinFS. For some reason I am certain that my next project will have to do with this implementation. My crystal ball says there is going to be much intersection with the new WinFS implementation and metadata, which I have an extensive background in... therefore I will be uniquely poised to exploit those changes. I like being uniquely poised. Of course I could be wrong. Keep your ear out: WinFS WinFS WinFS.

Wed, 08 Oct 2003 23:06:11 GMT

I'm having so much fun looking up zip codes in Claritas. (It's not steretyping, it's right-typing!)

Mon, 06 Oct 2003 22:23:20 GMT

I'm looking for a great link that describes deployment of the CLR to an installed base. If you're 99% sure you're app is going to be the very first .NET application that your clients download and try to use, what is the user experience for installation? Zip files won't cut it, putting "requres CLR" in the sysreqs won't cut it. I want an integrated experience that wraps up the CLR installation so ordinary folks can get it if they need it. I'm pretty sure Sam Gentile has this information, as it's implied in his famous rant but not actually itemized. Also pretty sure buying a major install app (Wise, InstallShield) would solve this. How to solve this on the cheap then?

Sells had a dynamic checker on his web site to let folks know if they could run his game "wahoo." Handy, (and by the way how did he do this), but only half the battle. His presumption is that users read (I'm the only one who does, which is how I found it). Those who don't read had better understand error dialogs.

Fri, 03 Oct 2003 21:07:31 GMT

The debate's over, I'm looking for a new code project. My criteria are: 1) It has to incorporate the new buzz from Longhorn, 2) It has to be a short-term development project, and 3) It has to have broad market appeal (e.g. not a code tool).

It would be ideal to find a contest or some place to submit my work once it's done. So many times the last year I've wanted to drop everything and do a contest. Now it seems they're all over and the prizes handed out. Here are the ones I've found that are still open:

.net Framework win forms Be cool like Chris Sells and be a "Code Hero"

a1vbcode Tiny outfit, but they run a contest monthly which gives you more chances.

GotDotNet User Samples This is not a contest, but there is a nifty ratings system. Probably more for code snippet audience anyway.

If you can think of any more sites like this, let me know!

Thu, 02 Oct 2003 04:03:36 GMT

Yesterday I remembered reading a quote from someone on Fast Company that it was sometimes a great act of leadership to cancel a project rather than letting it continue. Don't I know it. When the thought nags at me, such as yesterday, I looked on the FC website for more. Funny how the web is, you have to remember something verbatim or its gone. So, I didn't find the quote or any supporting anecdotes, but I did find a user group for Seattle that has cool talks such as from the guy who started Cranium. I joined the group as an afterthought, then went back to my pondering. (Plucking daisies: should I cancel? should I cancel it not?) (Or remember the image of the wife sitting in bed reading "Should You Get A Divorce" quite blatantly so you-know-who can see? Well, another image of a similar book: me at the office reading "Should You Cancel The Project" Of course no book exists and neither does the office, but you get the idea.)

The group gave me a warm welcome and wants to know all about my question. Ulp. Not sure this is worthy of a newsgroup, it's too anonymous on my part. The answers I want are something along the lines of "here is what I did in the past" and "it was / was not a good decision because...." But I would also want folks to know me, and help me make a decision based on my capabilities. That's beyond a newsgroup. 

The real thing that's nagging at me is when Scoble wrote about win32 programming. He said, "In 10 years Win32 programming will look about the same as shoveling coal into a steam engine." Of course the first time I read it I assumed he was talking about all programming that ran on the win32 platform, but now reading it obviously he means just straight win32 api calls, like you have to do in order to make a horizontal scroll bar in VB. But oh, the momentary terror, the sneaking suspicion that he was right! Sam Gentile's recommendation that we all use the command line compiler rather than VS, that VB and C# are just "syntactic sugar" (I love that!). As programmers, we're making it so easy that we have to admit that we are mere end-users. That certain features of Word are more difficult to use than most of the CLR is to utilize from VS. And we are migrating ourselves out of our identity as programmers and into a mere power-user state. (Against Sam Gentile's recommendation, of course). Talk about shoveling coal.

What happens when tools become too easy is that all that matters is your rolodex. Everyone has awesome ideas. Now, everyone can execute. Who can drive to market? Only the fat rolodex will survive.

So, given all this, does it lean towards me continuing with my project or canceling it?

Long ago my Mom gave me a great tool for decision making. You write the question down in a yes/no way. In the yes column, you list all the good things about choosing that path, and all the bad things. In the no column, you do the same. If it's a really complicated chart you start rating the strength of each of these consequences, but most you can see that the good things pile up (or bad things avoided) by choosing a particular path. That's your answer. Simple, huh?

Mon, 29 Sep 2003 18:01:56 GMT

Great news. If .NET guy says my RSS feed is fixed, then it's fixed. I would not have been able to get it done without the suggestion from David Phillips (thanks, Dave!) posted on radio userland discussion groups. The clincher was realizing that posts are different from RSS, that you need to edit your post and the RSS feed will follow.

Well, I don't know about great news. Great news would be someone buying me a ticket to PDC.

Sat, 27 Sep 2003 16:10:42 GMT

Duh, cutting and pasting in the garbled character as way of explanation breaks the feed the same way.

Fri, 26 Sep 2003 23:16:07 GMT

More info in my quest to solve the problem with my RSS feed:

Following leads from Disscussion boards on radio userland:

1) "Firebird" says the error is on line 163. There's an XML parsing error, but on the radio userland validator it validates just fine. Perhaps an error in the validator is why it hasn't come up as a bug yet for userland. Thanks, Lisa!

2) Jim says it works in Radio and "FeedDemon." And he has seen fishy stuff like that when people post pictures that are too wide. I always take care to trim my photos down to the bare minimum, often making them unreadable, but I hate it that a wide image reformats my nav column due to html scaling. Perhaps I still have some more work to do on this, perhaps others do too. Thanks, Jim!

3) Tried looking in XML Spy to check for well formdedness for the XML. I had to install a new version. Then, I busted out laughing at this dialog box, which is possibly the worst designed dialog ever. I won't put it in-line because I'm superstitious, but here it is. Har har har. When I have a second, I will redesign this for the poor folks over at Altova. Oh, and it says my XML is well formed, but it doesn't like RSS as a schema. This sounds like a problem with XML Spy learning new schemas, so I won't pursue.

4) Last Chance. On to what's going on for line 163, column 1826:

In XML Spy they have a cute feature where you can seek ahead to exactly 163/1826, which puts the cursor right before the little square. Yum! That's It' I'll delete and see if it's fixed.

Oh, and what possible incentive could people have to check box number three in this dialog?

That's all for now, thanks for everyone's help

Fri, 26 Sep 2003 17:49:06 GMT

Every other day or so, my newsreader (still radio, alas) forgets how to process the br tag. Or something. Small bug, but serious problem in that the news is unreadable. This is what it looks like.

Wed, 24 Sep 2003 15:52:41 GMT

I have never seen a better thought-out job posting than this one. The person who can answer these questions will also be able to give .NET guy the "something different" he seeks in blogging, and will also be able to give Scoble the "killer app" he seeks for longhorn. Here's to asking the right questions. Unfortunately recognizing their importance does not in and of itself qualify me for the position. Darn.

By the way, what's a K-log?

Wed, 24 Sep 2003 15:36:08 GMT

It's very important to know whether your device is primarily multi-user or single-user. This is perhaps the primary design decision, with all other decisions branching out from that. The old 512k Macintoshes (otherwise known as "computers," since ibm boxes had yet to merit the title and were suffering under the weight of FoxPro and WordStar) presumed multi-user from the beginning. This mac did not come with a hard drive, so you carried all your files on a floppy. On shutdown, the computer automatically ejected the floppy. This is to make it available for the new user, who will undoubtedly have their own data or programs to run. Problem is, many of these macs were actually single user machines, contrary to design assumptions, making this flexibility an irritation. So: right design decision, wrong assumptions. Consider the opposite problem with CD players. Their assumption is single-user. The CD is not automatically ejected, and when restarting (your car, for example) the CD picks up where it left off. CD players are wrong about this with the same frequency: it seems there are tons of CD players in a multi-user setting. Windows XP assumes multi-user. An alarm clock assumes single-user. You get the idea.

As designers, what do you do if you just don't know about multi or single usage for your product. Or, if you do know, maybe you're not comfortable having the 60% majority win out and make the experience for the remaining 40% suck. With gobs of money and time, you can build your box and put it in the field, testing key parameters and logging the info. For the Mac, it could test what % of the time on booting was the same floppy inserted as last time. For a CD player, it could test what % the existing CD was ejected on startup. For XP, it could test what % was logged back in as the same user. For the alarm clock, it could test what % was the time set to a different time. This would tell you how to change your design to be more friendly to the realworld setting. But it still doesn't make things pretty if you're usage is tied, or 60/40.

The solution is to make your device be adaptive. Note: adaptive is not a mode switch. Nobody should ever include a single user / multi user switch on the device. No, what I mean by adaptive is testing for the pattern, then not ejecting the disk by default after the pattern is established. Or, ejecting it after the opposite pattern is established. Adaptive in XP is to log the new user in as Elizabeth Grigg automatically, then have a "Not Elizabeth Grigg?" item in the menu to switch. Adaptive in the alarm clock would be to have a magic "other time" button that sets the alarm to the most frequently used alternate setting other than current.

Pretend you have a toddler who wants to hear a CD. He has the CD in his hand, and wants to put it in the player. But you have to eject the old one first. He has no comprehension, thinks he isn't going to get to hear his CD. Destruction of property ensues, followed by a time-out. Why? No adaptability in the device. 

Mon, 22 Sep 2003 23:58:45 GMT

Patrick Meader has a great article on what it's like to get rid of your land line and use your cell phone as your primary. Funny, but none of his issues intersect mine at all. That means there are a lot of issues! The take-home: you might be using your company's product already, as "dog food." But are you using it exclusively and extensively? Are you in close touch with several people doing so? If Partick and myself were part of a focus group on the topic, an entire department might be reuired to fix the bugs we found. 

Sun, 21 Sep 2003 03:32:47 GMT

Thanks to David Pogue's newsletter, I've discovered free virus protection from AVG

Wed, 17 Sep 2003 23:55:40 GMT

I once had a progress report sent to me with the following filename: saga_of_exhilerating_progress.doc

Not so bad, except for the fact that the choice of words misrepresented the contents. Except, perhaps, the word "of." This is how you know you have a process-hostile environment.

Wed, 17 Sep 2003 19:27:26 GMT

Woo hoo! I learned the html for strikeouts. I guess this is the kind of learning curve the open source movement had in mind. Imagine a world where the View menu of any app has a "Source" option. There you can figure out how something was done, and use it for your own purposes. Should programming really be more complicated? (of course, this presumes a world where functionality can be triggered by tags and attributes only. hmmmm)

Wed, 17 Sep 2003 15:34:06 GMT

The famous "Are Ideas Important" question, for those of you wondering.

Yes, ideas are important: This is your edge above the competition. This is the thing that you uniquely have to offer the world. If you ignore your ideas, you become replaceable. An idea is the exact thing that's missing in many many consumer scenarios to fix a previously unfixable problem. Ideas have a spiritual quality. Ideas are self.

No, they're not: The best ideas are those that increase the team's ability to execute and meet business targets. Often these don't take the shape of ideas but are rather an attention to detail in the existing world. Ideas just tease us by indicating that entire businesses and business models could be new or different, when in fact that's the easy part. The hard part is making it happen, and ultimately more useful. No one gained respect or success due to an idea: it is always execution and discipline.